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Contact: Allison Banks, Public Information Officer, 907-697-2230
Contact: Chris Gabriele, Whale Biologist, 907-697-2664
Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve Superintendent Susan Boudreau announced today that the 13 knot vessel speed limit and mid-channel vessel course restriction in lower Whidbey Passage and waters south and east of the southern tip of Willoughby Island will be removed due to a decrease in the number of whales in the area. On July 8, special whale waters were implemented in Whidbey Passage to protect numerous humpback whales that were frequenting these waters. Recently, whales have largely moved out of the area, so the whale waters will be lifted. However, vessel operators are advised to proceed cautiously in this area, as one or more whales may still be feeding in this region. The attached map shows the updated location of all whale waters areas in Glacier Bay National Park waters as of 5 AM on Wednesday August 31.
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.