Be Whale Wise
Give whales space
If you see something…
Say something!

Washington boaters required to stay 1,000 yards away from Southern Resident killer whales starting in 2025. Learn more here.

Act Responsibly

Be Whale Wise informs you on the laws pertaining to marine mammals, as well as provides additional guidelines that will make you a safer boater and a steward of our natural resources.

The Salish Sea is home to many marine mammals, but most known as the home of the Southern Resident Community of orcas or killer whales (SRKWs). This unique population of orcas feeds on fish, preferably salmon, and lives in close family groups. The Southern Resident orcas are listed as endangered in both Canada and the United States. Only 73 orcas remain as of July 2022. One of the best ways to help these whales is to Be Whale Wise!

Download the Be Whale Wise Brochure and Poster here.
BeWhaleWise Guideline Graphic

What You Need to Know

The Laws

Washington State

  • Boats to stay 300 yards from Southern Resident killer whales on either side.
  • Boats to stay 400 yards out of Southern Resident killer whale’s path/in front and behind the whales
  • Boats to go slow (<7 knots) within ½ mile of Southern Resident killer whales
  • Disengage engines if whales appear within 300 yards.

Boats should stay 100 yards from all other marine mammals (e.g. humpback whales, gray whales, sea lions and seals).

Learn more about Washington State Regulations & Guidelines

A pod of Orcas


  • Vessels must stay 400 metres away and may not position a vessel in the path of killer whales in southern BC coastal waters between Campbell River and just north of Ucluelet until May 31, 2025, as per the Interim Order enacted under the Canada Shipping Act. Vessels with a purple ‘Authorized Vessel’ (AV) flag are allowed to be closer to non-Southern Resident killer whales. Do not follow them. Learn more here.
  • Boats must stay 200 metres from all killer whales in other Canadian Pacific waters and from all whales, dolphins or porpoises if they are resting or with a calf.
  • Boats must stay 100 metres from all other whales, dolphins and porpoises in Canadian Pacific waters.
  • Drones can disturb marine mammals, so are discouraged for viewing marine mammals unless appropriate permits are obtained.
  • Area-based fishing closures are in effect for recreational and commercial salmon in key Southern Resident Killer Whale foraging areas in Swiftsure Bank, Strait of Juan de Fuca, southern Gulf Islands and mouth of the Fraser River.

The Guidelines

  • Turn off fish finders and echo sounders when it is safe to do so.
  • Go slow (<7knots) within 1,000 metres, or a half mile, of whales.
  • Refrain from fishing, where possible, within 1,000 metres or half mile of whales.
  • Don’t get between whales and the shoreline
  • Use the Whale Warning Flag to warn fellow boaters to the presence of whales and be aware of the flag when you’re cruising the area.

Click here to learn more best practices when boating around marine life.

Whale Warning Flag on a vessel

Whale Warning Flags Indicate

  • Whales are in the vicinity
  • Vessels should slow down and be prepared to change course
  • Turn off fishfinders and depth sounders

Learn more about the Whale Warning Flag and other flags you might see out on the water.

Get your own flag here for US boaters and here for CAN boaters.

Know the Zones

San Juan Island West Side Voluntary No-Boat Zone

  • Extends from Mitchell Point to Cattle Point
  • ¼ mile offshore, ½ mile around Lime Kiln Point State Park

Click to DOWNLOAD a map.

San Juan Island West Side Voluntary No-Boat Zone Map graphic

Canada Interim Sanctuary Zones

  • Saturna Island
  • Pender Island

Canadian Seasonal Slowdown Areas

  • Swiftsure Bank

Area-Based Salmon Fishing Closures

  • Mouth of the Fraser River
  • Southern Gulf Islands
  • Strait of Juan de Fuca
  • Swiftsure Bank

Click on maps for coordinates and closure dates or visit https://www.canada.ca/southern-resident-killer-whales for more information.

Click to DOWNLOAD Canada’s poster.

Click to DOWNLOAD Canada’s brochure.

More Information