The Harbor Column:

Give whales some room when boating

February 11, 2010|By Mike Whitehead

The greatly needed rain has moved through our area, and the skies should be sunny this weekend with only a few drifting clouds. The daytime air temperatures will be in the 70s with an afternoon breeze. Actually, it should be great for whale watching, especially if the 4- to 5-foot swells have double-digit intervals.

Speaking of whales, it’s whale watching time again off our coastline, and through March, gray whales are migrating south.

I am noticing that more and more boaters are being very vigilant to not disturb the whales while watching them in the ocean.

The National Marine Fisheries Service is responsible for protecting the whales from the 1972 Marine Mammal Protection Act. The regulations were enacted to protect whales and other marine mammals from harassment, and for safe, non-disruptive whale watching. The NOAA Fisheries’ website viewing.htm states that, for your safety and their protection, you never touch, swim with, feed or harm the whales.


Every recreational boater, commercial whale-watching operator, PWC operator and kayaker has to abide by these basic rules.

Those on the water must try to stay at least 100 yards away from whales, and you must stop if a whale approaches closer to your boat.

While viewing a pod at the required distance, boaters should maintain a constant speed while paralleling and cruising at speeds slower than the whale. Also, boaters should never follow or approach directly in front of whales.

The regulations note that all boaters should do nothing to cause a whale to change direction, separate from groups, or block a whale between your boat and shore, such as a bay.

Everyone needs to be considerate to the mammals because we are playing in their home.

Question of the week is to go to and read the recent “Call to Arms” about the proposed statewide coastal marina permit that the California State Water Resources Board is pushing forward.

Marinas and yacht clubs with 10 or more slips will have to obtain a costly state permit that will only increase the cost of boating.

RBOC’s website has more information about who to contact to help stop this unneeded, money grabbing attack on boaters.

MIKE WHITEHEAD is the Pilot’s boating columnist. Send marine-related thoughts and story suggestions to or go to .

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