Seeing a whale while out at sea is an exciting experience, but it can also result in accidental collisions that are harmful for both the boater and the whale.
Short on time? Follow these 6 straightforward tips to safely and responsibly watch whales from your boat!
1. See A Spout? Watch Out!
Did you see a spout, a tail, or a breaching whale? Slow down and post a lookout. Some whales dive 20 minutes or more. Seeing one whale at the surface means more could be nearby. Proceed cautiously!
2. Head On Is Wrong!
Whales are protected under federal law, so interrupting their natural behaviors is illegal. Parallel the whale’s course and direction while staying at least 100 ft away (1,500 ft/500 yd for North Atlantic right whales) to avoid cutting off its path or getting too close.
In US waters it is illegal to approach a right whale within 1500 feet, or 500 yards (5 football field lengths). Other countries may have different restrictions.
3. Lots of Boats, Talk to Folks!
If there are other boats watching or traveling near whales, contact them via VHF radio (CH 9 or 16) and coordinate viewing efforts. If you encounter whale watch boats at idle proceed with caution and idle your boat as well.
4. Avoid Troubles, Steer Clear of Bubbles!
Some whales, such as humpback
whales, create “bubble clouds” and
“bubble nets” to corral schools of
small fish. Never approach or drive
through bubbles. A feeding whale is
likely to surface in that space!
5. Don’t Chase, Give the Whales Space!
If a whale moves away from your boat, don’t chase it. Respect the whales’ behavior and keep your distance. Cautious boaters may get to see exciting natural behaviors. Enjoy the whales; don’t endanger them or yourself.
6. Drop Your Sails When Watching Whales
Under sail, it can be difficult to reduce speed or quickly stop a safe distance from a surfacing whale. In the vicinity of whales, luff or drop your sails and use your auxiliary motor to proceed cautiously.
Even more on safe sailing can be found HERE.
Remember: All whales are protected by federal law. These tips will help you from accidentally illegally disturbing these animals. Your behavior shouldn’t change theirs.