Presentation Abstract

Southern Resident killer whales (Orcinus orca) in the Pacific Northwest are the principal target species for a commercial whale watch industry and encounter a variety of other vessels in their urban environment. The population was listed as endangered in 2005 due to limited prey, high levels of contaminants, and disturbance from vessels and sound. There has been a growing body of evidence documenting effects from vessels on small cetaceans and other marine mammals including behavioral disturbance, physiological impacts, and acoustic interference. The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) Recovery Plan identified actions to address vessel impacts, including vessel regulations. In 2011, NMFS adopted final regulations that prohibit vessels from approaching killer whales within 200 yards and from parking in the path of the whales within 400 yards. The rules apply to all types of vessels in inland waters of Washington State with several exemptions. In the final rule, NMFS committed to reviewing the vessel regulations to evaluate effectiveness and monitor any impacts to the local whale watch industry. This assessment compares trends and observations for the five years before and after establishing regulations, and focuses on five measures: education and outreach efforts, enforcement, vessel compliance, biological effectiveness, and economic impacts. Since 2011, education and enforcement activities have raised awareness and have positively influenced compliance. While there are some positive indicators of improving compliance, data show that there are still vessels approaching the whales too closely. The results on biological effectiveness are mixed and suggest continued or potential increased impacts to the whales. For example, impacts to foraging activities of the food-limited whales continue. Local ecotourism indicators show that the regulations have not hindered growth of the whale watch industry. The assessment concludes with recommendations for additional efforts to improve compliance in order to achieve the goals of regulations.

Session Title

Collaborating to Reduce Impacts of Underwater Noise from Vessels on SKRW: Understanding and Managing Underwater Noise from Vessel Activities

Keywords

SRKW, Vessel regulation

Conference Track

SSE14: Vessel Traffic: Risks and Impacts

Conference Name

Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference (Seattle, WA : 2018)

Document Type

Event

SSEC Identifier

SSE14-201

Start Date

6-4-2018 11:30 AM

End Date

6-4-2018 11:45 AM

Type of Presentation

Oral

Contributing Repository

Digital content made available by University Archives, Heritage Resources, Western Libraries, Western Washington University.

Geographic Coverage

Salish Sea (B.C. and Wash.)

Rights

This resource is displayed for educational purposes only and may be subject to U.S. and international copyright laws. For more information about rights or obtaining copies of this resource, please contact University Archives, Heritage Resources, Western Libraries, Western Washington University, Bellingham, WA 98225-9103, USA (360-650-7534; heritage.resources@wwu.edu) and refer to the collection name and identifier. Any materials cited must be attributed to the Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference Records, University Archives, Heritage Resources, Western Libraries, Western Washington University.

Type

text

Language

English

Format

application/pdf

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Apr 6th, 11:30 AM Apr 6th, 11:45 AM

Did the rules work? An assessment on the effectiveness of federal vessel regulations for Southern Resident killer whales

Southern Resident killer whales (Orcinus orca) in the Pacific Northwest are the principal target species for a commercial whale watch industry and encounter a variety of other vessels in their urban environment. The population was listed as endangered in 2005 due to limited prey, high levels of contaminants, and disturbance from vessels and sound. There has been a growing body of evidence documenting effects from vessels on small cetaceans and other marine mammals including behavioral disturbance, physiological impacts, and acoustic interference. The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) Recovery Plan identified actions to address vessel impacts, including vessel regulations. In 2011, NMFS adopted final regulations that prohibit vessels from approaching killer whales within 200 yards and from parking in the path of the whales within 400 yards. The rules apply to all types of vessels in inland waters of Washington State with several exemptions. In the final rule, NMFS committed to reviewing the vessel regulations to evaluate effectiveness and monitor any impacts to the local whale watch industry. This assessment compares trends and observations for the five years before and after establishing regulations, and focuses on five measures: education and outreach efforts, enforcement, vessel compliance, biological effectiveness, and economic impacts. Since 2011, education and enforcement activities have raised awareness and have positively influenced compliance. While there are some positive indicators of improving compliance, data show that there are still vessels approaching the whales too closely. The results on biological effectiveness are mixed and suggest continued or potential increased impacts to the whales. For example, impacts to foraging activities of the food-limited whales continue. Local ecotourism indicators show that the regulations have not hindered growth of the whale watch industry. The assessment concludes with recommendations for additional efforts to improve compliance in order to achieve the goals of regulations.