The Proposed Killer Whale Vessel Guidelines – The ‘Why’

Please follow and like us:
Pin Share

The original document, New Regulations to Protect Killer Whales from Vessel Effects in Inland Waters of Washington, is fairly detailed and 163 pages long, so to make it easier I have copied the text (minus references) where the issues are summarized. You might want to download the original document, it may answer many of your questions.

Starting with the one most of us want to know: Why are these new regulations being considered?

(From 1-1, line 35 on the document):

“There is a growing body of evidence documenting effects from vessels on small cetaceans and other marine mammals. The variety of whale responses include stopping feeding, resting, or social interaction; abandoning feeding, resting, and nursing areas ; altering travel patterns to avoid vessels; effects on acoustic behavior; or not reacting to vessels. One study found that marine mammals exposed to human-generated noise released increased stress hormones with the potential to negatively affect their nervous and immune systems.”

“Several scientific studies have documented human disturbance of resident killer whales by vessels engaged in whale watching in the Pacific Northwest. Short-term behavioral changes in Northern and Southern Residents have been observed and studied by several researchers, although it is not well understood whether it is the presence and activity of the vessel, the sounds the vessel makes, or a combination of these factors that disturbs the animals.”

“Individual animals can react in a variety of ways to whale watching, including swimming faster, adopting less predictable travel paths, making shorter or longer dive times, moving into open water, and altering normal patterns of behavior at the surface.”

“High frequency sound generated from recreational and commercial vessels moving at high speed in the vicinity of whales may mask echolocation (signals sent by the whales that bounce off objects in the water and provide information to the whales) and other signals the species rely on for foraging and navigation.”

“In rare instances, killer whales are injured or killed by collisions with passing ships and powerboats, primarily from being struck by the hull or turning propeller blades”

“Based on internal scoping, external scoping through an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, monitoring reports, and scientific information, NMFS has determined that existing prohibitions, regulations, and guidelines do not provide sufficient protection of killer whales from vessel impacts. Vessel effects may limit the ability of the endangered Southern Resident killer whales to recover and may impact other killer whales in inland waters of Washington. NMFS therefore deems it necessary and advisable to adopt regulations to protect killer whales from vessel impacts, which will support recovery of Southern Resident killer whales.

Orca Dwarfed by Ship (Photo by Ken Balcomb)

Next, we’ll look at where the proposed regulations will be implemented.

Please follow and like us:
Pin Share

Leave a Reply