Whale Waters Update for Glacier Bay Effective September 11, 2012
Contact: Albert Faria, Chief Ranger, 907-697-2230
Contact: Chris Gabriele, Whale Biologist, 907-697-2664
Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve Acting Superintendent David Nemeth announced today that the 13-knot vessel speed limit in lower Glacier Bay and at the mouth of Glacier Bay will be lifted due to a decrease in the number of humpback whales in the area. These changes go into effect beginning at noon on September 11, 2012. However, a vessel speed limit of 20 knots through the water in lower Glacier Bay remains in effect through September 30. In addition, May 15-September 30 in lower Glacier Bay whale waters, vessels greater than 18 feet in length are 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.
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.
Did You Know?
When Captain George Vancouver surveyed Southeast Alaska in 1794, the wall of ice that filled the bay was (at its greatest extent) 100 miles long, 20 miles wide, and 4,000 feet thick. Just 250 years later, this same ice has retreated 65 miles, the fastest glacial retreat on record.