Proposed 200yd rule for orca watching boats

Received this from this morning.   Deadline for public comment is 5pm on Oct. 27, 2009.  It’s noteworthy that this announcement came the day after notice that Dawn Noren published a paper that suggests that most surface active behaviors occur when vessels are within ~150 meters.

As part of the recovery program for endangered Southern Resident killer whales, NOAA Fisheries Service is proposing new rules for vessel traffic aimed at further protecting the whales in navigable waters of Washington State. The proposed rules would prohibit vessels from approaching any killer whale closer than 200 yards and forbid vessels from intercepting or parking in the path of a whale. In addition, the proposed regulations would set up a half-mile-wide no-go zone along the west side of San Juan Island from May 1 through the end of September, where generally no vessels would be allowed.

There would be exemptions to the rules for some vessels, including those actively fishing commercially, cargo vessels traveling in established shipping lanes, and government and research vessels. The no-go zone would also have exemptions for treaty Indian fishing vessels, and limited exceptions for land owners accessing private property adjacent to it.

The news release, proposed rule, draft environmental assessment, and other supporting documents are available on our web site at, along with instructions for submitting comments. There is a 90 day public comment period and we will hold public hearings Sept. 30 in Seattle, and Oct. 5 in Friday Harbor to provide additional information on the proposed rule. Thank you for your interest.

One Response to Proposed 200yd rule for orca watching boats

  1. PDF of Dawn’s paper is available here:

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