Study: Puget Sound orcas getting a break from boaters

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    Janine Harles photographed these transient orca whales hunting off Edmonds’ Marina Beach in July 2016. Harles was aboard the Chilkat, an Edmonds-based whale watching boat operated by Puget Sound Express.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    A new study has found that restrictions on vessel traffic have helped keep more boaters farther from critically endangered southern-resident killer whales, while not harming the whale-watch industry, our online news partner The Seattle Times reports.

    Federal restrictions enacted in 2011 require whale-watch boats and other vessels to stay at least 200 yards away from orca whales. That’s a long way — two football-field lengths — and doubled the buffer. Yet whale-watch tourism continues to grow, the technical memorandum from NOAA found.

    Lack of food — namely salmon in Puget Sound — as well as high levels of contaminants in their environment, and disturbance by vessel noise are the primary threats identified by the agency to the Puget Sound orcas’ survival, The Times said.

    You can read the complete story here.

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