New Vessel Speed Restrictions In Lower Glacier Bay And Revised Whale Waters Boundaries At Entrance To The West Arm


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News Release Date: July 1, 2009

Contact: Allison Banks, Public Information Officer, 907-697-2230

Today, Superintendent Cherry Payne announced two changes to whale waters areas in Glacier Bay National Park.  First, a 13 knot speed limit will be implemented in lower Glacier Bay to protect numerous humpback whales that have moved into the area. During the past week at least ten whales, including a mother/calf pair, have been observed in this area.  Second, whale distribution has shifted in the entrance to the West Arm, now concentrating in mid-channel south and east of Lone Island, so the boundaries of the 13 knot speed limit area implemented on June 25th have been changed.  These changes to whale waters desginations will be in effect from 5 AM Friday July 3rd until further notice.


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. Consistent whale monitoring protocols are used to document whale distribution, and adaptive management priniciples are used to define areas need to protect whales.


As shown on the attached map, 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 chart 17318 of Glacier Bay. All vessels are restricted to a 13 knot speed through the water in this area. Vessels greater than 18 feet in length passing through this area are also restricted to a mid-channel course or 1 nautical mile offshore.


The attached map also shows the revised whale waters area at the mouth of the West Arm, which are bounded on the north by a line due east from the easternmost point at the mouth of Hugh Miller Inlet, to the opposite shore at 58 deg. 45.7 min N. The southern boundary is defined by a line from the northern tip of Drake Island to southern point of land at the mouth of Geikie Inlet. The eastern boundary is defined by a line from Tlingit Point to the northern tip of Drake Island. The western shoreline of the West Arm and the mouth of Geikie Inlet and Hugh Miller Inlet form the western boundary of the area.


The special whale waters outside the mouth of Glacier Bay from Point Gustavus to Point Dundas will remain in effect due to continuing high abundance of whales there. It was implemented on June 25th, is bounded on the north by line between Point Carolus and Point Gustavus, and on the south by the Park boundary in Icy Strait.  The eastern boundary is defined by a line running due south from Point Gustavus to the Park boundary, and the western boundary is a line running due south from Point Dundas to to the Park boundary. All vessels are restricted to a 13 knot speed through the water in this area.


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. Vessels are prohibited from operating within ¼ nautical mile of a humpback whale in all 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.  


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.

Last updated: April 14, 2015

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Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve
PO Box 140

Gustavus, AK 99826


(907) 697-2230

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