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    Glacier Bay

    National Park & Preserve Alaska

Whale Waters Update for Glacier Bay Effective June 12, 2012

Map showing Whale Waters Update for Glacier Bay Effective June 12, 2012

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Date: June 11, 2012
Contact: Albert Faria, Chief Ranger, 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 will be implemented in lower Glacier Bay and in Park waters at the mouth of Glacier Bay to protect numerous humpback whales that have been sighted in this area. During the past week, at least 12 different humpback whales have been observed in this area, including a mother/calf pair. This speed restriction will apply to all vessels from 5AM Tuesday June 12 until further notice. In addition, since May 15 in lower Glacier Bay whale waters, vessels greater than 18 feet in length have been restricted to a mid-channel course or 1 nautical mile offshore.

As shown on the attached map, the designated lower Glacier Bay whale waters include the waters extending from the mouth of Glacier Bay to a line drawn between the northern tip of Strawberry Island and the northern tip of Lars Island. This boundary is shown on NOAA nautical charts of Glacier Bay.

The whale waters at the mouth of Glacier Bay are bounded on the north by an imaginary line between Point Carolus and Point Gustavus, and on the south by the Park boundary in Icy Strait. The eastern boundary is an imaginary line running due south from Point Gustavus to the Park boundary, and the western boundary is an imaginary line running due south to the Park boundary following longitude 136 degrees 05' West. All vessels passing through this area are restricted to a speed limit of 13 knots through the water.

Since May 25, whale waters have also been in effect north of this area with a 13-knot speed limit in the middle of Glacier Bay. These whale waters are as follows:

  • Southern boundary: a line from the northern tip of Strawberry Island to the northern tip of Lars Island, contiguous with the northern extent of lower Glacier Bay whale waters
  • Eastern boundary: a line from the northern tip of Strawberry Island to the western tip of Flapjack Island, then following the motorless waters boundary to Bear Track Cove, and then following the eastern shoreline of Glacier Bay north through South Sandy Cove
  • Northern boundary: a line drawn from the northern edge of South Sandy Cove to the northern tip of North Marble Island to the southern tip of Drake Island and then due west to the mainland shore
  • Western boundary: follows the western shoreline of Whidbey Passage from due west of the southern tip of Drake Island to the northern tip of Lars Island, not including the waters of Fingers Bay or Berg Bay
  • A large portion of Whidbey Passage is included in these whale waters, along with Bear Track Cove, South Sandy Cove, and Spokane Cove.

Boaters are reminded that vessels are prohibited from operating within ¼ nautical mile nautical mile of a humpback whale in Park waters, including those Park waters outside Glacier Bay proper. In addition, vessel operators positioned within ½ nautical mile of a humpback whale are prohibited from altering their course or speed in a manner that results in decreasing the distance between the whale and the vessel. Speed and course restrictions in whale waters are intended to reduce the disruption of feeding humpback whales and to lower the risk of whale/vessel collisions. Boaters should proceed cautiously in all areas where whales are present because whales may surface in unexpected locations, posing a hazard to both the vessel and the whale. Although humpback whales tend to be distributed along the shoreline, boaters should note that whales frequently cross mid-channel as they move between feeding sites.

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?

Kittlitz's Murrelet

Kittlitz Murrelets are seabirds, spending most of their lives on the ocean, diving for fish. However, they nest on scree slopes or cliff faces near the tops of mountains in glaciated regions. Their plumage is so cryptic, only 25 nests have ever been found.