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Contact: Allison Banks, Public Information Officer, 907-697-2230
Superintendent Cherry Payne announced today that vessel operating restrictions will remain in effect in portions of Glacier Bay National Park to protect numerous humpback whales that continue to be sighted in the area. Under Park regulations, vessel operating restrictions are scheduled to automatically end after September 30 in Lower Bay whale waters. However, over the past week at least 15 whales have been documented in the Lower Bay and in adjacent Park waters at the mouth of Glacier Bay. This high level of sustained activity warrants keeping special operating restrictions in place in these areas. Therefore, as shown on the attached map, the following restrictions will remain in effect until further notice:
- Lower Bay: mid-channel course restriction (for vessels greater than 18 feet in length) and 13 knot vessel speed limit
- Park waters around Point Carolus and the mouth of Glacier Bay: 13 knot vessel speed limit (no course restriction)
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. Speed restrictions in Park whale waters are consistent with NOAA Fisheries regulations in Alaska requiring boaters to maintain a slow, safe speed when near a humpback whale. 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.