The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is proposing new rules for whale watching in Puget Sound. The Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans is also considering the same rule changes for Canadian waters.
Under consideration are proposals that would prohibit boats from getting closer than (180 metres) from endangered southern resident killer whales, and institute an 800 metre "no-go zone" for most boats along the west side of San Juan Island during the summer from May to September. Currently, boats must stay 100 metres away from whales, and boats should not be within 260 metres of the west side of San Juan Island if whales are in the area.
A spokesman for NOAA said said the idea behind the rule change is to protect the 85 southern resident killer whales from underwater noise.
According to the Victoria Times-Colonist, some whale-watching tour operators are shocked by news of the proposed changes. The paper quotes Shane Aggargaard, president of the Pacific Whale Watch Association, who said, "A lot of people are pretty shocked. It doubles the global standard for whale watching. It would be like doubling the speed limit on the freeway or cutting it in half." He added that the half-mile no-boat zone off San Juan Island would eliminate "six square miles of prime sports fishing and eliminate the kayaking industry."