Monday, March 26, 2007

Vessel Effects on Orcas

Designated critical habitat for Southern Resident killer whales.
(Proposed Recovery Plan)

Request for Information and Comments
Suggestions included a moratorium on all whale watching, prohibiting whale watching for one or more days per week, developing a permit program for commercial operators, and requiring whale watch vessels to purchase and install Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) equipment to allow for monitoring their activities.

NMFS has developed a preliminary list of options for consideration and comment:

Codify the current Be Whale Wise marine mammal viewing guidelines –
Codifying the guidelines, in whole or in part, as regulations.

Establish minimum approach rule –
Have to consider whether the current guideline of 100 yards is appropriate for this regulation.

Prohibit vessel activities of concern –
Surrounding whales or otherwise preventing a reasonable means of escape.

Establish time-area closures –
Restricting human access to specific areas.

Operator permit or certification program –
Approach rules or establish closed areas that applied to all vessels except those operated under a whale watching permit or certification.

You may submit information and comments concerning this ANPR by any one of several methods:

Federal e-rulemaking Portal:
Mail: Assistant Regional Administrator, Protected Resources Division, Northwest Regional Office, National Marine Fisheries Service, 7600 Sand Point Way NE, Seattle, WA 98115.

Public Hearings
Based on the level of interest in killer whales and whale watching, public meetings have been scheduled for April
18, 2007, 2–4 p.m. in The Grange Hall, Friday Harbor, WA and April 19, 2007, 7–9 p.m. at the Seattle Aquarium, Seattle, WA. Requests for additional public hearings or special accommodations must be made in writing by April 23, 2007.

(Federal Register Notice)

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