Analyzing Vessel Interactions Surrounding Southern Resident Killer Whales (Orcinus orca)-‐ Summer 2011
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As global biodiversity continues to decline greater attention is being paid on ways law can be a mechanism to advance conservator efforts. Currently, southern resident killer whales are listed as ‘endangered’ under the endangered species act. Comprising a population of 88 individuals it has been shown that disturbance by vessels may affect key behaviors and mask echolocation, which is critical for foraging and communication. Within the Puget Sound, Southern Residents are exposed routinely to commercial whale watching, and vessel interaction has been listed as a contributing factor to their endangered status. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration implemented federal vessel regulations in April 2011 with include a no parking in the path of whales’ restriction and a 200-‐yard buffer between vessels and whales. Within May through September 2011 Soundwatch collected data pertaining to the number of vessels, the types of these vessels, and any observed incidents. What was found that on average 12 boats surround this population on a daily basis, with a maximum of 62 boats. These boats mostly comprise of commercial whale watching operations with 6 boats on average. Of the 2,500 incidents that were private boaters committed 58%, followed by the commercial industry with 21%. The top incidents that were committed were being within 200 yards and 100 yards of the whales, and being inshore of whales. As NOAA seeks to revise and enforce these federal regulations it is imperative to have accurate and consistent monitoring on the water.