Living With Orcas: Protecting a vital resource—Puget Sound southern resident killer whales

The Puget Sound southern resident killer whale population is currently estimated at about 80 whales, a decline from its historical level of about 200 during the late 1800s. Due to its small population size, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) listed this segment of the population as "endangered" under the Endangered Species Act in 2005 and designated the Puget Sound region as critical habitat in 2006. During 2011, as part of the Endangered Species Act listing’s recovery plan, NOAA’s West Coast region implemented vessel regulations throughout Puget Sound and most of its surrounding waters. Applicable vessels in the regulated area are prohibited from coming within 200 yards of killer whales and from parking within 400 yards of the whales' path. Ensuring compliance with the vessel regulations involves a delicate combination of education and enforcement. After more than six years, the NOAA Office of Law Enforcement, US Coast Guard, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and their local enforcement partners spend well over 1,000 hours annually monitoring vessel activity in the regulated area. While the education and enforcement efforts have proven to significantly enhance vessel behavior around the whales, considerable room for improvement remains in fostering a high level of compliance.


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  • Accession Number: 01676979
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Jul 27 2018 3:48PM