Summer Boaters: Watch For Whales - The Fisherman

Summer Boaters: Watch For Whales

Attention boaters, kayakers, and paddleboarders; while viewing a whale is a spectacular experience, this is a reminder to stay at least 100 feet away from whales. This is equivalent to about three school buses. Keeping this distance, or more, protects the whale, you, and your boat. If a whale moves away from your boat, don’t chase it. All whales are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, which prohibits people from harming or harassing them. If your behavior changes their behavior, that may be considered harassment. Follow these safe viewing guidelines to protect the whales and you:

  1. Slow Down: See a spout, a strange ripple at the water’s surface, an aggregation of jellyfish, or another indication animals are close by? Slow your vessel to 10 knots or less (required for vessels 65 feet and over in designated areas) if you suspect they are nearby. If you see animals, use a no-wake speed until they safely pass.
  2. Don’t Feed: Feeding marine animals puts them at risk of injury or illness if they approach people or boats too closely, become dependent on handouts, or eat something they shouldn’t. Dependent animals can become aggressive. Feeding protected marine animals is also against the law.
  3. Be Careful: In areas where you think animals might be, use caution. Keep a close watch for signs that animals are in the area, such as splashes, disturbances at the water’s surface, or lots of excited sea birds.  Only cast or troll your gear when you’re sure protected marine animals aren’t near your boat. Dolphins, sea turtles, and sturgeon can be easily hooked or entangled by these activities. Humpback whales create bubble clouds as one of their feeding strategies. Getting too close to these bubbles is dangerous for you and the whales, since they aren’t likely to notice you’re there. Don’t cast or troll near or around these bubble clouds. Visit See a Spout, Watch Out for more tips on boating safely around whales and other marine life.
  4. Report: You can help save the life of a marine mammal (whale, dolphin, seal) or sea turtle in trouble by calling the New England/Mid-Atlantic hotline (866) 755-6622, radioing the Coast Guard, or contacting your closest authorized responder directly. Never enter the water or attempt to rescue on your own. This puts you and the animal in a dangerous position. If your boat hits an Atlantic sturgeon, please call your state environmental agency to report the incident.
  5. Know The Law: Marine mammals, sea turtles, and Atlantic sturgeon are protected by federal laws that prohibit people from harming or harassing them. If your behavior changes their behavior, that may be considered harassment. Following these safe viewing guidelines helps you follow these laws. Please also know that if you are outside of the New England and Mid-Atlantic region, other restrictions may apply.

Whether it’s your choice to go slow, call in a report, or choose a responsible whale watching tour, your choices help to protect these special ocean creatures for future generations. Give the animals space and respect, and you might be amazed by what you’ll see.