Vessel Operating Restrictions Implemented In Whidbey Passage
Contact: Allison Banks, Public Information Officer, 907-697-2230
Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve Acting Superintendent Craig Smith announced today that a vessel speed limit of 13 knots through the water is being implemented in Whidbey Passage in Glacier Bay to protect numerous humpback whales that have been sighted in the area. In addition, vessels greater than 18 feet in length passing through this area are restricted to a mid-channel course or 1 nautical mile offshore. During the past week at least 10 humpback whales, including a mother/calf pair, have been observed feeding in this area. These operating restrictions are effective from 5 AM Wednesday June 23 until further notice. Speed and course restrictions are intended to reduce the disruption of feeding humpback whales and to lower the risk of whale/vessel collisions.
The attached map shows the updated location of all whale waters areas in Glacier Bay National Park waters as of 5 AM on Wednesday June 23. The Whidbey Passage whale waters area is defined by the following boundaries:
- Southern boundary: a line drawn between the northern tip of Strawberry Island and the northern tip of Lars Island, contiguous with Lower Bay whale waters.
- Northern boundary: a line drawn due west from the southern tip of Drake Island to the mainland shoreline.
- Southeastern boundary: lines drawn from the northern tip of Strawberry Island to the northern tip of Boulder Island and from the northern tip of Boulder Island to the southern tip of Willoughby Island.
- Northeastern boundary: lines drawn from the northern tip of Willoughby Island to the northern tip of Francis Island and from the northern tip of Francis Island to the southern tip of Drake Island.
- Western boundary: follows the western shoreline of Whidbey Passage, not including the inner waters of Fingers Bay or Berg Bay.
Even in areas where no specific vessel speed limit has been designated, NOAA regulations implemented throughout Alaska in 2001 require that "vessels operate at a slow, safe speed when near a humpback whale". In addition, while in all Glacier Bay National Park waters, vessels are prohibited from operating within ¼ nautical mile of a humpback whale. However, whales often surface in unexpected locations. In Park waters, the operator of a vessel inadvertently positioned within ¼ nautical mile of a humpback whale must immediately slow the vessel to 10 knots or less, without shifting into reverse unless impact is likely. The operator must direct or maintain the vessel on as steady a course as possible away from the whale until at least ¼ nautical mile of separation is established.
Boaters are advised to verify whale waters designations prior to entering Glacier Bay by telephoning (907) 697-2627 or by contacting KWM20 Bartlett Cove on marine VHF radio.
Whale waters restrictions are authorized in Glacier Bay National Park in accordance with Title 36 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Subpart N, 13.1174
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Sea Otters have a pouch of extra skin under their armpits where they can store food items such as sea urchins, crabs, and barnacles for eating at a later time. They eat about 25 percent of their body weight every day.