- BE CAUTIOUS and COURTEOUS:
Approach areas of known or suspected marine mammal activity with extreme caution. Look in all directions before planning your approach or departure.
If a vessel operator is unaware of the whales' location he must maintain a vigilant watch for whales at all times. Mere observation of whale watching vessels in the distance does not fulfill this responsibility as individual whales may be encountered anywhere and at any time. Maintaining a vigilant watch often includes significant speed reductions.
- SLOW DOWN: reduce speed to less than 7 knots when within 400 metres/yards of the nearest whale. Avoid abrupt course changes.
A vessel approaching the vicinity of whales - within ½ mile (880 yards) of a whale - is considered to be in the slow-down zone and must gradually reduce speed such that vessel speed is no more than 7 knots. This speed transition shall also be observed when disengaging the vicinity of whales.
- AVOID approaching closer than 100 metres/yards to any whale.
As the vessel approaches, the distribution of whales and the positioning of other viewing vessels should be assessed. Communication with other member vessels is strongly encouraged at this point (on the designated marine radio frequency or cell phone).
- If your vessel is unexpectedly within 100 metres/yards of a whale, disengage engines IMMEDIATELY and allow the whales to pass.
- AVOID approaching whales from the front or from behind. Always approach and depart whales from the side, moving in a direction parallel to the direction of the whales.
A vessel approaching the vicinity of whales from ahead must apply the Stop & Wait Viewing Sequence once inside ½ mile (880 yards) of the nearest whale or within ¼ mile (440 yards) of a vessel maintaining its priority sequence and waiting for the whales to arrive.
A vessel approaching the vicinity of whales from behind or the side must apply the Parallel Viewing Sequence once inside ½ mile (880 yards) of the nearest whale or within ¼ mile (440 yards) of a vessel maintaining its priority paralleling sequence. A vessel may disengage the area to reposition at any time. (See Parallel Viewing Sequence).
A vessel shall not approach a resting whale from behind, leaving a minimum clearance of 1/8th mile (220 yards).
- KEEP CLEAR of the whales’ path. Avoid positioning your vessel within the 400 metre/yard area in the path of the whales. If engaging in Stop and Wait sequence, do so at least 400 metre/yards ahead of the whales.
- When whales are moving in a predictable direction, do not park or maneuver between the whales and the nearest shoreline (if they are within 1 mile of a shoreline).
- Resting Whales:
A vessel in the vicinity of a resting whale shall always employ the Parallel Viewing Sequence. The Stop & Wait Viewing Sequence shall not be utilized at anytime when whales are resting in the vicinity, unless the vessel is maneuvered in such a manner that the nearest whale passes the vessel a minimum of 100 metres
- Whenever a vessel is upwind of and in the vicinity of a whale, engine exhaust emissions are to be minimized, either by shutting down one or more main and auxiliary engines.
- All sonar, depth sounders, fish finders and other underwater transducers should be shut off whenever a vessel is in the vicinity of whales.
Ongoing acoustical research is inconclusive, however sound reduction measures are addressed as a precaution to insure optimum acoustic environment.
Parallel Viewing Sequence
Vessels should travel in a direction parallel to the direction the whales are traveling, maintaining a minimum distance of 100 metres.
A vessel's speed should be the same as the whale's speed when engaged in parallel viewing. When disengaging, angle vessel away from the nearest whale, thereby relinquishing your priority sequence.
Vessels in more favorable positions should limit their time in that position to 15 minutes and then allow other vessels engaged in viewing that more favorable position. Stop & Wait Viewing Sequence or Silent Set-Up 1. When approaching a whale or a group of whales from ahead the vessel operator must ensure his vessel enters the sequence of viewing vessels such that the operator does not block the views of the already set-up vessels. Once the vessel is in viewing sequence, it must stop, shut down engines.
- A vessel engaged in the Stop & Wait Viewing Sequence may have whales approach inside 100 yards (300 feet) only if it has followed all relevant procedures.
Each whale must be allowed to pass a minimum of 1/4 mile (440 yards) before re-starting engines.
Repositioning is most relevant to vessels utilizing the Stop & Wait Viewing Sequence. A vessel should proceed on a course perpendicular to the current course of the particular whales at a maximum speed of 7 knots until it is at least ½ mile (880 yards) away from the nearest whale after which point it can make the speed transition. When re-engaging, vessels must slow to 7 knots at ½ mile.
Maintain 100 yards between vessels engaged in Stop and Wait or Silent Set-Up.
Do not attempt to park directly in the path of the whales. If obviously in the path and the situation allows, attempt to move further back. (Never engage engines within 100 yards of whales)
STAY on the OFFSHORE side of the whales when they are traveling close to shore. Remain at least 200 metres/yards offshore at all times.
LIMIT your viewing time to a recommended maximum of 30 minutes for one particular group of whales. This will minimize the cumulative impact of many vessels and give consideration to other viewers.
A vessel shall limit its cumulative time in the vicinity of whales on any one tour to a maximum of 33% of the scheduled tour length. For a 3-hour tour this is a maximum of 1 hour spent in the vicinity of whales.
DO NOT swim with or feed whales.
A vessel's speed shall never exceed 30 knots when it is within ½ mile (880 yards) of any shoreline or known wildlife viewing areas (Hein Bank, Middle Bank, Constance Bank, etc) at any time during a tour.
Report any observations of disturbance or harassment to the WWOANW executive in charge (V.P. US or V.P. Canada). Please use courtesy reminder form.
Vessels shall ensure a boat-free foraging zone for the whales by maintaining a position seaward of the whales and not positioning within 1/8th mile (220 yards) of any shoreline when whales are in the vicinity. Vessels are not to position within ¼ mile of shore between Eagle Pt. and Mitchell Pt. on the west side of San Juan Island. Vessels are not to position within ½ mile of Lime Kiln Lighthouse.
Operations vessels around Transient Killer Whales or Baleen Whales
All Best Practices Guidelines as they relate to resident killer whales are applicable and must be followed with the following modifications:
Allow 220 yards between vessel and Transient Orca when in the process of a kill.
Porpoises and dolphins:
OBSERVE all guidelines for watching whales.
DO NOT drive through or circle groups of porpoises or dolphins for the purpose of bow-riding. Should dolphins or porpoises choose to ride the bow wave of your vessel, HOLD COURSE AND SPEED or REDUCE SPEED gradually and avoid sudden course changes.
Seals, sea lions and birds on land:
AVOID approaching closer than 100 metres/ yards to any marine mammals or birds.
SLOW DOWN and reduce your wake/wash and noise levels. Vessels should slowly pass by without stopping in order to remain predictable.
PAY ATTENTION and slowly back away at the first sign of disturbance or agitation.
BE CAUTIOUS AND QUIET when around haul-outs and bird colonies, especially during breeding, nesting and pupping seasons (generally May to September). Inform passengers to avoid loud noises, pointing, and sudden movements.
DO NOT swim with or feed any marine mammals or birds.
Rafts of birds on the water should be given as wide a berth as is practical at cruising speed.
Cormorants and Peregrine Falcons are particularly sensitive to disturbances when nesting. Extra caution should be exercised during nesting periods. Vessels should approach very slowly, with no wake, no P.A. system, cautioning guests to refrain from making loud noises, and remain at least 100 yards from rookeries.
Viewing wildlife within Marine Protected Areas, Wildlife Refuges, Ecological Reserves and Parks:
CHECK your nautical charts for the location of various protected areas.
ABIDE by posted restrictions or contact a local authority for further information.
Vessels will slow their approach to Race Rocks such that speed at 1/8th mile (220 yards) from any rock or landmass is reduced to minimal wake and wash, when practical. This Go Slow Zone extends 800 yds/m around every rock and landmass in the Race Rocks area.
Vessels in the Go Slow Zone will remain as close to mid-channel as is practicable between the major rock outcroppings known as North Race Rock, West Race Rock and Helicopter Rock.
While in the Go Slow Zone vessels will transit the area with the current whenever conditions are suitable to do so.
Vessels will remain outside all of the Go Slow Zone whenever Resident, Transient or Off Shore Killer Whales are present.
Vessels engaged in whale watching in Active Pass should use the Parallel Viewing sequence, not the Stop & Wait sequence in the Pass (due to heavy currents and ferry traffic) from Helen Pt. to the Galiano Ferry Terminal.
Watching Whales in Inclement Weather
Heavy Seas: effects are relative to the size of the vessel. Obey all guidelines when possible. Safety of passengers and vessel takes priority over guidelines.
Heavy Fog: If engaged in wildlife viewing in heavy fog, observe all guidelines when possible. If vessel is in an unpredictable position regarding whale locations, shut down (when possible) and drift until whale locations can be determined. Safety of passengers and vessel takes priority over guidelines.
Heavy Current: Not an excuse to violate guidelines. If pushed into an unpredictable position, shut down (when possible) until whales are at a safe distance. Re-engage using the parallel viewing sequence or stop and wait sequence.
Vessels engaged in viewing or in the vicinity of whales will monitor the Marine VHF Radio frequency designated from time to time by this Association.
Radio transmissions should be courteous, helpful, to the point, use appropriate language and be brief.
Use low power on VHF radios.