Received this from email@example.com 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 www.nwr.noaa.gov, 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.
13:50 Kari Koski, Soundwatch program
- Soundwatch tries to reach boaters before they get on the water
- We reinforce that education through education and monitoring patrols
- Citizen science is done from the same boat (1/2 hour survey for vessel trends)
- 40 volunteers put in a lot of hours, operating 10 hour days, from May 1 through September
- The No Go zone began in 1996 at Lime Kiln, and was expanded in 1998 to include 1/4nm stand-off along west side
- Results: majority of boats are whale watchers, boat density peaks in july/aug and holidays, and along the west side
- High variance: daily boat count max (up to 81) is sometimes 2-3x long-term average boat count.
- Who’s parking in front? 60% private, 30% Canadian operators, 13% U.S. operators
- Who’s going >7knots? >75% private boats, ~15% Canadian
14:10 Nic Dedeluk, Straitwatch program of Cetus Research and Conservation Society
- Replaced M3 in 2007 we brought program down to Victoria from Johnstone Strait
- Land-based program will be full time in 2009, while boat will be on the water only intermittently
- Straitwatch monitoring consists of vessel counts (<1km from focal group of whales, with range measured with range-finder in past and radar in 2009), incident scans, serious incident monitoring
10:00 Lynne Barre, NWFSC
- Critical habitat can be modified. A future step is designating habitat outside of the inland waters of WA.
- Recovery plan implementation was started in 2003, well before the endangered listing in 2005.
- Proposed regulations are under review… no date given for when rule-making will occur.
- Consultations regarding potential impacts result in letters of concurrence or biological opinions; records are kept in public on their website…
- Prevention of oil spills is a high priority (WDFW is adding the Oct 2007 workshop‘s hazing plan as appendix to the Northwest response plan)
10:30 Paul Cottrell, DFO (taking over for Marilyn Joyce as of last October, was originally a marine mammal biologist)
- Canadian recovery strategy encompasses both northern and southern residents; transients (300-400 in population, rising with growing pinniped population) are listed as threatened and a recovery strategy is forthcoming; offshores are currently listed as species of concern, but are under review for upgrading to threatened.
- Southern residents were originally listed under COSEWIC (coh-see-wick); Recovery strategy was published on the SARA Registry in March , 2008
- Considering general regulations in addition to 100m approach limits; SARA has specific prohibitions
- Marine Mammal Response Network (headed by Lisa Stavings) is doing a series of workshops and has monitoring handouts for volunteers
- There is a potential mechanism for licensing (schedule 6), however it is not an option in the regulations that are being amended. If industry continues to grow, a licensing schedule could be implemented through a public review process.
Suzanne Russell, NMFS/NWFSC, “People of the U.S. Whale Watching Industry”
- Goal is to collect baseline data on the socio-cultural nature of the industry
- Started with a voluntary survey in June-November, 2006 (112 returns, 64% response rate); supplemented with interviews and field observations
- Analyzed overall, and broken down by sector (motorized vessel, kayak, land); further broken down by motorized vessel type (Tiers based on USCG regs — >65′ inspected, <65′ inspected multiple vessels, <65′ inspected single vessel, etc), as well as geographically (mainland vs island), and in some cases non/owner.
- Results (details coming in a forthcoming report)
- Demographics: majority in industry are >45y and have some college education; biggest boats are all based on mainland; owners have typically been in industry the longest are predominanty in kayak, island groups, while land-based portion of industry is relatively new.
- Big boats operate out of mainland and operate more tours overall; more multiple daily trips are made out of Islands.
- Boats have become bigger and faster over the years; companies have expanded to other wildlife (beyond orcas).
- Effects on the local community: many responses emphasized educational effect (e.g. taking school groups out)