The Proposed Killer Whale Vessel Guidelines- The ‘Where’

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Where will the proposed new rules be applied?

The new rules that are under consideration by the National Marine Fisheries Service will apply to all orcas anywherein the inland waterways for some of the rules, with an area off the west side of San Juan Island to be designated a “No Go Zone” that will prohibit most vessels- including all tour boats and private vessels other than those particularly excepted – from entry during the spring and summer/autumn months.

This is an area that the southern resident orcas have been observed to feed/and or travel frequently. Their rest areas, as defined by the National Marine Fisheries Service, are not included.

Map showing Proposed “No Go Zone” (from NOAA)
Use Patterns by Southern Resident Killer Whales (from NOAA)

Outside of the “No Go Zone”, boats will be required to stay 200 yards away from the whales, and will be specifically prohibited from maneuvering to intercept them.

The rules will apply to sailboats and kayaks as well as powerboats. Excepted from the proposed rules are: some private boat owners who access their property, commercial fisheries, research boats, ships traveling in the designated shipping lanes, and miscellaneous others.

If you would like to give your input on these proposed rules, please read the following:

Lynne Barre, Northwest Regional Office,
206–526–4745; or Trevor Spradlin,
Office of Protected Resources, 301–713–

Q. How can I provide information and comment on the proposed vessel regulations?
A. You may submit comments by any of the following methods:
Federal e-rulemaking portal:
Mail: Assistant Regional Administrator, Protected Resources Division, Northwest Regional Office, National Marine Fisheries Service, 7600 Sand Point Way NE, Seattle, WA 98115.

Q. What kinds of information is NOAA looking for?
A. NOAA Fisheries Service is requesting information and comments on the proposed regulations and supporting documents. This includes:
alternatives analyzed in the environmental assessment
impacts associated with the alternatives
scientific and commercial information about the effects of vessels on killer whales and their habitat
information on the economic analysis
any other relevant information that the agency should consider in developing a final regulation.

Q. Will there be public meetings during this comment period?
A. Yes. NOAA Fisheries Service will hold two public meetings:
Sept. 30, 2009, 7-9 p.m. at the Seattle Aquarium, Seattle, Wash.
Oct. 5, 2009, 7-9 p.m. in the Grange Hall, Friday Harbor, Wash.

These meetings will be designed in an open house format. They’ll provide people with an opportunity to listen to a general presentation and meet with NOAA Fisheries Service staff to learn more about the proposed regulations and the draft environmental assessment. These open houses will also provide opportunities for interested parties to make formal recorded comments about possible vessel regulations. The preferred means of providing comment for the official record is via written testimony prepared in advance.

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