Watching Marine Mammals

The West Coast provides many opportunities to observe marine mammals as they swim, rest, or tend to their young. For your safety and the animals’ health, never approach or interact with a marine mammal. On water or on land, find a safe distance for viewing. Bring your binoculars and enjoy watching seals, sea lions and whales.

Human activities in the vicinity of marine mammals may have adverse impacts. The range of outcomes varies from no observable effect, to modifying behavior, to causing physical harm to the animals. Human activity may result in separation of mother whales and their calves; disruption of migratory patterns; disruption of social groups such as killer whale pods; and interference in breeding and/or reproductive and rearing activities, such as the abandonment of nursing pups.

All marine mammals are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 (MMPA). Some of these animals are also protected under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). It is against federal law to harass or otherwise take marine mammals, including disrupting important behavioral patterns such as resting, nursing, feeding, or breeding. Pursuing, tormenting, or annoying any marine mammal, or attempting to do so, may be considered an act of harassment. Violators of the Marine Mammal Protection Act may be subject to a civil penalty of as much as $10,000 for each violation; or criminal prosecution with a fine of as much as $100,000 or imprisonment for as much as one year, or both.

To report a dead, injured or stranded marine mammal, please call: 1-866-767-6114 
For law enforcement, harassments,  and other violations, please call:  1-800-853-1964
For entangled marine mammals, please call: 1-877-SOS-WHALe or 1-877-767-9425 or hail the U.S. Coast Guard on VHF Ch. 16
To report derelict gear, please call:  1-855-542-3935

Whales, Dolphins, & Porpoises

Species information 

Safe Whale Viewing