Two boaters fined for approaching endangered killer whales

Shoreline whale watchers have reported that the ship is illegally approaching endangered animals to help law enforcement identify the boats involved.

Two recreational boaters agreed to pay fines for illegal approach Killer whales are endangered in the south On charter boats near San Juan Island last fall, according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Whale-watchers on the beach reported violations using BeWhaleWise Along with photos and details to help law enforcement identify the boat owners involved. The officers learned the names of the boaters involved after contacting the companies that chartered the boats.

Grace Ferrara/Natural Resource Management Specialist, NOAA

“Southern killer whales live on the west coast of the United States and are fish-eating killer whales, so they primarily eat chinook salmon, and they spend a lot of time in the waters of Washington state which is why they’re so close,” said Grace Ferrara, a natural resource management specialist in Washington State. NOAA.” They use echolocation to find their food and noises that ships produce can mask echolocation calls, making it difficult for them to hear that echo that comes from fish. It’s basically the noise we worry about.”

By law, recreational boats must stay at least 300 yards on either side of orcas and at least 400 yards in front and behind endangered animals. Regulations require ships to slow to less than 7 knots within half a nautical mile of whales and disengage engines within 300 yards.

Research from NOAA Indicated boat traffic within 400 yards can interrupt the deep-water foraging process by whales that involves catching prey. In their research, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) found that female whales may completely stop foraging when boats approach.

“This could undermine the survival of whales, which are already challenged to find enough salmon to largely feed on,” the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said in detail in its findings.

Killer whales are a native species of the Northwest One of the nine national marine species They are at risk of extinction and need focused and urgent recovery actions, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) fisheries.

Southern resident killer whales spend several months of summer and fall each year in Puget Sound, Washington State.

The area’s population cedes three family groups of whales named J, K, and L pods, but the size of each pod decreased between 1965 and 1975 due to capture by marine parks.

As such, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said the resident population in the south “has fluctuated dramatically,” peaking at 97 animals in 1996 and reaching 79 in 2001. Now the animal population is down to 73 animals in Puget Sound , according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Scientists believe that the reduced quantity and quality of prey, noise, disturbances from vessels, and organic pollutants that disrupt the immune or reproductive systems can be traced back to the whale’s decline.

“People can help us by spotting suspected violations and providing as much information as possible as quickly as possible,” said Greg Bush, associate director of the West Coast Division in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Law Enforcement Office. “It is important for boaters to know the rules before they even get into the water. The more people who know the rules and help identify violations, the better protected the whales.”

This isn’t the first time in the past two years that boats have illegally approached endangered killer whales.

A yacht was reported off the western side of San Juan Island 100 yards from J Pod on September 30, 2021, according to NOAA. The J Pod is one of three groups of critically endangered southern populations in Puget Sound.

Monika Wieland Shields, director of the Orca Behavior Institute on San Juan Island, helped the officers connect the ship to a yacht charter company that had leased it to a resident of Entities, Washington.

“There are respectable ways to see whales from a ship, but when there is a deliberate and egregious violation, it is very important to report it,” Shields said. “It was difficult to watch, but I am thankful that law enforcement was able to follow up to make sure this disregard for whales has consequences.”

The boatman said he used the yacht near the whales, but admitted he was unaware of distance regulations at the time because the charter company did not inform him of state and state guidelines, according to NOAA. He agreed to pay a $300 fine for the violation.

A few weeks later, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said two witnesses identified a recreational boat on October 4, 2021 that was operating less than 200 yards from the killer whales. The kayak guide told the authorities that the boat approached the orca within 100 yards and its engines were running.

The officers attached the boat to the Anacortes Boat Club which provides access to similar timeshare boats. While the company provided information on whale watching regulations, including a whale warning flag and a QR code linked to an educational video, the boat told officers that it had not looked at the information before using the boat.

The boatman admitted to powering the ship but claimed the engine was malfunctioning near the whales, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Pictures taken from witnesses revealed that the boat created a state of wakefulness, indicating that it was moving forward.

The boat was fined $3,000, before admitting responsibility in the replacement fine of $2,700. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said the different fines reflected differences in how the boats approached the space of the endangered whales.

If a violation is reported, witnesses take photos of the activity along with the boat identification factors to BeWhaleWise.org.