Protecting SRKW from Whale Watching Vessels

December 5, 2020

PCC submitted comments to the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife regarding the proposed rules for licensing and regulating commercial whale watching vessels in the region.

In the spring of 2019, the Washington State legislature passed a bill related to protecting Southern Resident killer whales from vessels, as vessel noise and intrusion has been cited as one of the primary sources of damaging the health and survival of the species. The bill directed the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) to develop a licensing program and rules for commercial viewing of Southern Residents. The goal of the rules was to enable continued viewing of the whales while reducing disturbance from the vessels that may impact their ability to forage, rest, and socialize.

PCC was supportive of the original bill, SB 5577, which directed the creation of the WDFW rules. And our comments to the WDFW acknowledged PCC’s appreciation for the efforts of the department to bring greater consistency and oversight to the whale watching industry.

The draft rules put forth by WDFW included two options for regulating whale watching seasons and viewing times. PCC supported Option A of the proposed rule, which appeared to establish stronger protections for the whales. Additionally, we encouraged the WDFW to consider additional provisions to strengthen the rules more, such as setting official requirements around vessel speed limits when boats are in the vicinity of Southern Residents.

Read PCC’s full comments to the WA Department of Fish and Wildlife here.

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