• Sunset view of Glacier Bay and the surrounding Fairweather Mountains.

    Glacier Bay

    National Park & Preserve Alaska

News Release: Vessel Operating Restrictions Implemented In Whidbey Passage


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News Release Date: July 7, 2011
Contact: Allison Banks, Public Information Officer , 907-697-2230
Contact: Chris Gabriele, Whale Biologist, 907-697-2664

Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve Superintendent Susan Boudreau 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 16 humpback whales, including two mother/calf pairs, have been observed feeding in this area.These operating restrictions are effective from 5 AM Friday July 8 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 Friday July 8.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:followsthe 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 2001require 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.

Did You Know?

Glacier Bay Satellite Image

The Tlingit name for Glacier Bay is “Sit’ Eeti Gheeyi”, meaning “the bay in place of the glacier.” The name reflects the advance and retreat of the enormous glacier that carved Glacier Bay.