San Juan County Marine Program Gives Tips for Boaters to be “Whale Wise”

Contributed Photo/Taylor Shedd.

From San Juan County Marine Program

June is Orca Action Month, a time to celebrate and protect one of our region’s most iconic marine mammals, the Southern Resident orcas.

As we launch into summer, the San Juan County Marine Program would like to remind boaters what they can do to be a part of orca recovery.

The San Juan County Marine Program preserves freshwater resources, protects the marine environment and coordinates recycling and solid waste throughout the county.

Our resident killer whales have a unique social structure; they remain in matrilineal family groups, or pods, throughout their lives.

The theme of this year’s Orca Month is “We Are Family.” The theme highlights not only this close family bond, but the connection shared between all living things in our region.

Over the last year, we have rallied around the idea that we are all in this together.

Laws and guidelines are in place to protect the endangered orcas as they hunt for food in our waters. Boaters can “Be Whale Wise” to ensure they are boating safely and acting as stewards on the water.

“Be Whale Wise” is a partnership of governmental agencies, nonprofits and others in British Columbia and Washington state to research, implement and educate the public on laws and vessel practices to protect local marine resources.

Know the Washington state laws

Stay 300 yards from orcas on either side and 400 yards out of orca’s path, either in front and behind the whales.

Go slow (<7 knots) within ½ mile of orcas and disengage engines if whales appear within 300 yards.

Give them space

Observe the San Juan Island West Side Voluntary No-Boat Zone in critical feeding area which extends from Mitchell Point to Cattle Point and is ¼ mile offshore and ½ mile around Lime Kiln Point State Park.

Follow the Be Whale Wise guidelines

Use the Whale Warning Flag to alert boaters to the presence of whales and be aware of the flag when you’re cruising the area.

Refrain from fishing, where possible, within 1,000 meters or half-mile of orcas and turn of fish finders and echo sounders when safe.

Don’t pass between whales and the shoreline

You can view the full regulations and guidelines, as well as get a whale warning flag, at

Thank you for taking action and doing your part to help keep our waters safe.

Posted on May 30, 2021 at 5:00 am by

Categories: Animals, Wildlife

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