Be whale wise.
Give whales space.
If you see something…
Say something!

Act Responsibly

Be Whale Wise informs you on the local 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 orca whales 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 72 orcas remain as of June 2020. One of the best ways to help these whales is to Be Whale Wise!

Click to download the Be Whale Wise Brochure 2020
Be Whale Wise UPDATE Graphic _june_2020v1

What You Need to Know

The Laws

Washington State

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

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


  • Boats must stay 400 metres from orcas or killer whales in all southern BC coastal waters between the Campbell River and just north of Ucluelet
    • (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.
  • Boats must stay out of Whale Sanctuaries / Interim Sanctuary Zones located at Swiftsure Bank, off the east coast of Saturna Island and south-west of North Pender Island (June 1 through November 30, 2020).
Authorized Vessel "AV" Flag

The Guidelines

  • Follow the Be Whale Wise Guidelines
  • Turn off fish finders and echo sounders when not in use.
  • 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.
  • Go slow (<7knots) within 1,000 metres, or a half mile, of killer whales.
  • Refrain from fishing, where possible, within 1,000 metres or half mile of killer whales.

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

Download or view a map here.

Canada Interim Sanctuary Zones

  • Saturna Island
  • Swiftsure Bank
  • Pender Island

See map for coordinates and closure dates.

Click to DOWNLOAD Canada’s poster.

Click to DOWNLOAD Canada’s Flyer.

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

More Information