Whale Sanctuaries and Why They’re Important | NW Explorations

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Whale Sanctuaries and Why They’re Important

How familiar are you with boating areas reserved for whales?

The beautiful cruising grounds of the Pacific Northwest are home to many marine mammals, most iconic of these are orcas, sometimes referred to as killer whales. This Southern Resident Community of orcas are listed as endangered by both the United States and Canada. As of April 2022, only 74 orcas remain.

These striking figures, combined with the immense number of boaters, are why organizations such as Be Whale Wise were created to protect the sensitive marine habitats in our local area. This is done through research and education initiatives in partnership with various government agencies in Washington State and British Columbia.

How am I supposed to know where I can and can’t go?

The government of Canada website maintains several very helpful maps referencing the management areas that protect Southern Resident Killer whales. Below is the Gulf Islands map, with areas shaded in red “no boating” zones in effect June 1 – November 30.

A map of the Gulf Islands showing management measures to protect Southern Resident killer whales

Vessel No Go Zone example in Navoinics
Vessel No Go Zone example in Navoinics

View the office Government of Canada website here: Management measures to protect Southern Resident killer whales

Here are some of the mandatory measures while operating a vessel in the vicinity of Southern Resident Killer whales:

Maintain a minimum approach distance of

  • 300 yards on either side.
  • 400 yards out in front and behind the whales.
  • Reduce speed to under 7 knots when within 1/2 nm of the whales.
  • Disengage engines if whales appear within 300 yards.
  • See RCW 77.15.740 for more information

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