Don't get too close to orcas, authorities warn
Peninsula Daily News
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National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration spokesman Brian Gorman in Seattle says the agency is working with the Coast Guard and the state Fish and Wildlife Department to educate boaters about a 2011 requirement to stay at least 200 yards away from orcas. Previously it was just a guideline.
Gorman says they'll make a decision before next summer's boating season on issuing fines.
The Coast Guard said a witness reported a 25-foot leisure boat within 200 yards of a group of orcas near Orcas Island on Wednesday.
The crew of Coast Guard's Port Angeles-based Cuttyhunk cutter found the boat still in the exclusion zone when it arrived 20 minutes later.
After the Cuttyhunk crew told the boater to leave the area, they notified NOAA.
NOAA has enforced regulations for protecting killer whale waters since May 2011 because, according to the agency's website, they “identified vessel effects, including physical interference and sound, as a potential contributing factor in the population's decline.”
Researchers have since cited other possible causes for the species' decline, including a lack of food, but the regulations against disturbing protected zones have not changed.
San Juan County and Washington state can also impose fines for entering the protected waters.
Last modified: August 16. 2012 1:24PM