Whale watching

Posted by Christine, September 15, 2015

This group got dumped, but the catastrophe could have been worse. Watch marine mammals safely, for both humans and whales:

How is “harassment” defined under the MMPA?
Harassment means any act of pursuit, torment, or annoyance that has the potential to injure a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild (Level A harassment); or that has the potential to disturb a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild by causing disruption of behavioral patterns, including, but not limited to, migration, breathing, nursing, breeding, feeding, or sheltering, but does not have the potential to injure a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild (Level B harassment).

Does NOAA Fisheries Service have a policy about interacting with marine mammals in the wild?
NOAA Fisheries Service maintains a policy on human interactions with wild marine mammals that states:

  • Interacting with wild marine mammals should not be attempted, and viewing marine mammals must be conducted in a manner that does not harass the animals.
  • NOAA Fisheries Service does not support, condone, approve, or authorize activities that involve closely approaching, interacting, or attempting to interact with whales, dolphins, porpoises, seals, or sea lions in the wild. This includes attempting to swim with, pet, touch, or elicit a reaction from the animals.

You can find recommendations on proper viewing of marine mammals on our website http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/education/viewing.htm

How can people responsibly view marine mammals in the wild?
NOAA Fisheries Service supports responsible viewing of marine mammals in the wild. Each of our six Regional Offices have developed viewing guidelines or regulations tailored to the specific needs of the species in their area to help people responsibly view the animals and avoid harassment. In general, the guidelines recommend:

  • Observing wild dolphins, porpoises, and seals from safe distances  of at least 50 yards (150 feet) by land or sea
  • Observing large whales from a safe distance of at least 100 yards (300 feet) by land or sea
  • Observing whales, dolphins, porpoises, and seals from a safe distance of at least 333 yards (1,000) feet by air
  • Use binoculars or telephoto lenses for a better view of the animals
  • Limit overall viewing time to no more than 30 minutes
  • Avoid circling or entrapping marine mammals between watercraft, or watercraft and shore
  • Avoid abrupt movements or loud noises around marine mammals
  • Avoid separating mother/calf pairs
  • Move away cautiously if behaviors are observed that indicate the animal is stressed
  • Avoid touching or swimming with wild marine mammals, even if they approach you

In addition to these recommended guidelines, Federal regulations strictly prohibit close approaches to certain species of marine mammals and feeding or attempting to feed any species of marine mammal:

  • It is illegal to feed or attempt to feed any species of marine mammal
  • It is illegal to approach humpback whales in Hawaii and Alaska within 100 yards (300 feet) by land or sea
    • It is illegal to approach humpback whales in Hawaii within 333 yards (1,000 feet) by air
  • It is illegal to approach killer whales in inland waters of Washington State within 200 yards (600 feet) by land or sea
  • It is illegal to approach North Atlantic right whales within 500 yards (1,500 feet) by land, sea, or air

For more details, please see our website, Responsible Marine Wildlife Viewing, as well as 50 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 216.3 and 50 CFR 224.103.

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