Southern Resident Killer Whale ESA Recovery Plan Implementation - Vessel Effects & Sound

Many marine mammal populations may be experiencing increased exposure to vessels and associated sounds. Commercial shipping, whale watching, ferry operations, and recreational boating traffic have expanded in many regions in recent decades, including the northeastern Pacific. Commercial fishing boats are also a prominent part of the vessel traffic in many areas.

Vessels have the potential to affect whales through the physical presence and activity of the vessel, the increased underwater sound levels generated by boat engines or a combination of these factors. The recovery plan (1.7MB) identifies continued improvement of guidelines for viewing the whales and evaluating the need for regulations or protected areas:

1.3 Minimize disturbance of Southern Resident killer whales from vessels.

Land based whale watching:

The Whale Trail 

The Whale Museum tours 

1.3.1 Monitor vessel activity around whales.

Soundwatch Boater Education Program

Straitwatch

Species Recovery Grant (2013, WDFW)

1.3.2 Continue to evaluate and improve voluntary whale-watching guidelines.

Be Whale Wise: Marine Wildlife Guidelines for Boaters, Paddlers & Viewers

Kayaker Code of Conduct, called K.E.L.P. 

1.3.3 Evaluate the need to establish regulations regarding vessel activity in the vicinity of killer whales.

Vessel Regulations

Washington State law protecting Southern Residents

Protection Workshop

1.3.4 Evaluate the need to establish areas with restrictions on vessel traffic.

Vessel Regulations