Vessel Speed and Course Restrictions in Whidbey Passage
Contact: Allison Banks, Public Information Officer, 907-697-2230
Superintendent Cherry Payne announced today that the mid-channel course restriction and vessel speed limit of 13 knots through the water in Whidbey Passage is hereby canceled. This restriction went into effect on July 26 to protect numerous humpback whales that were frequenting the area. Recently the number of humpback whales sighted in this area has declined significantly, resulting in the cancellation of these vessel operating restrictions effective immediately.
Since June 6, all vessels in Lower Bay whale waters have been restricted to a speed of less than 13 knots through the water, and vessels greater than 18 feet in length have been restricted to a mid-channel course or 1 nautical mile offshore. In addition, since July 18, all vessels transiting in Park waters around Point Carolus and the entrance to Glacier Bay have been restricted to a speed of less than 13 knots through the water. Numerous whales are still using these areas, so restrictions in those areas will continue to be in effect until further notice.
The attached map shows the revised location of all whale waters areas in Glacier Bay National Park waters as of August 15, 2008.
The Lower 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 chart 17318 of Glacier Bay.
The whale waters around Point Carolus and the entrance to Glacier Bay are bounded on the north by a line drawn between Point Carolus and Point Gustavus, on the south by the Park boundary in Icy Strait, on the east by an imaginary line running due south from Point Gustavus to the Park boundary, and on the west by an imaginary line running due south to the Park boundary following longitude 136 degrees 05' West.
Boaters are reminded that vessels are prohibited from operating within ¼ 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.