Truly, whale watching in the San Juan Islands offers a memorable experience for everybody. This is why every year, the waterways around the islands teem with boats and cruisers filled with people hoping to watch the gentle giants in the wild. Land-based whale watching is also available from some of the island parks for the benefit of those who do not have boats or cannot get on one.
For the experience to continue year after year, however, it is imperative that, as witnesses of the rare beauty of this spectacle, you should do everything we can to preserve it while enjoying it. To that end, these recommendations for sustainable and respectful whale watching should be considered.
The Southern Resident Killer Whales
In 2006, the Southern Resident Killer Whales were listed as an endangered specie. Comprising three pods (J, L, and K)., their population in December 2016 totaled 78.
These whales are frequently seen from spring to fall around the waters of the San Juan Islands. And every year, more than half a million people reportedly go to watch them in their natural habitat.
Whale Watching Guidelines and Avenues
There are different ways to go whale watching in San Juan Islands, and they are each governed by regulations that are designed to foster proper stewardship between the animals and humanity. Regardless of which ones below you opt for, remember that there are rules you need to abide by.
First, sailing around the waters of the Salish Seas to watch whales should follow local, regional, and federal guidelines. Whether you’re going on a private or guided charter, your chosen company should be able to steer you towards a respectful experience that will preserve the beauty of what you will witness.
Regulations passed in 2011 mandate that boats should be at least 200 yards away from whales while out on the water. If a whale happens to surprise you at close distance, the boat should not be powered or should move away from the path of the whale until there are 200 yards between your boat and the animal.
Choosing Your Tour
So if you’re headed to the Pacific Northwest soon, make sure to choose tours and cruises for whale watching in the San Juan Islands that meet these guidelines for a truly memorable experience that you can be proud of. A big indicator of this is the number of years the provider has spent in the industry. Another criterion is the reputation the provider enjoys.
These two things should be agreeable so you can be safe in the knowledge that your whale watching tour or cruise will be the special moment you hope it to be.
Whale Watching in the San Juans, WhaleMuseum.org
Southern Resident Killer Whale Population, WhaleResearch.com