The 78 or so resident killer whales around here in the Salish Sea will soon be getting a little more personal space. Washington State currently has a law on the books which prohibits boats from getting any closer to killer whales than about 200 meters; in Canada the limit is 100 meters, but it’s merely a guideline, not a law.
That will change before the spring, according to federal Fisheries Minister Dominic LeBlanc. Yesterday, he announced that in order to assist with whale protection and population recovery efforts, legislation will be introduced requiring boats to stay at least 200 meters away. Research has shown that noise from motor-driven vessels is one of the whales’ biggest threats, because it interferes with their ability to find food by using sound. LeBlanc says that this will be the first in a series of measures designed to ramp up the protection of marine mammals, with the government exploring all options for protecting whales. Those would include permanent speed limits for vessels in the gulf, new regulations on fishing gear, and possibly changes to crab fishing season dates so that equipment can be taken out of the water before the whales arrive during their migration.
LeBlanc says the ministry will be getting the new regulations into place as fast as possible. As well as the 200 meter stipulation for killer whales, there will also be a 100 meter no-go requirement for other marine mammals.