loading

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

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 75 orcas remain as of February 2021. One of the best ways to help these whales is to Be Whale Wise!

Download the Be Whale Wise Brochure and Poster here.

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

Canada

  • Boats must stay 400 metres from killer whales in all southern BC coastal waters between the Campbell River and just north of Ucluelet (see map here).
      • (Note: In Canada, vessels flying a purple Authorized Vessel “AV” flag are authorized to approach non-Southern Resident killer whales up to 200 metres.)
  • 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.
  • When viewing marine mammals from the air using a drone: (1) maintain a 1,000-foot minimum altitude within a 0.5 nautical mile (approx. 3,000ft radius) of a marine mammal; and(2) avoid flight maneuvers around marine mammals (on land or in the water).
  • Boats must stay out of Interim Sanctuary Zones.

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 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.

Canada Interim Sanctuary Zones

  • Saturna Island
  • Swiftsure Bank
  • Pender Island

Click on maps for coordinates and closure dates.

Click to DOWNLOAD Canada’s poster.

Click to DOWNLOAD Canada’s Flyer.

More Information