Soundwatch and Straitwatch Boater Education Programs

Soundwatch was created by The Whale Museum in 1993 to mitigate vessel risk away from orca whales and other marine wildlife in the Salish Sea through education, research and monitoring. Soundwatch does this through educating boaters before they leave the dock, then reinforcing the learning on the water. Soundwatch crew and volunteers are on the water every day during the summer around whales educating vessels on what they are looking at and what the guidelines are pertaining to the whales. Soundwatch also collects valuable data on vessel and whale behavior that helps inform managers and other researchers on best practices.

Straitwatch is the Canadian counterpart, run by the Cetus Research & Conservation Society. This stewardship program operates similarly to Soundwatch in waters around Victoria, Southern B.C., and the Gulf Islands.

If you are approached by Soundwatch or Straitwatch, it doesn’t always mean you’ve done something wrong. We like to talk to everybody and just answer any questions you may have. We know that private vessel don’t carry a naturalist on board, so if you have answer questions about what you’re seeing on the water let us know.

To find out more about Soundwatch, read our research reports, or learn how to volunteer please visit, https://whalemuseum.org/pages/soundwatch-boater-education-program

To find out more about Straitwatch, please visit https://www.cetussociety.org/straitwatch

Be Whale Wise Outreach Materials

Be Whale Wise is a promotional effort aimed at spreading the word to Pacific Northwest residents about the regulations that govern human-whale interaction. We’d like your help informing the public about these new regulations and ensuring that boaters and kayakers don’t venture too close to whales.

Download Here:

If you would like copies of the Be Whale Wise brochures or posters, please send an email with desired quantity and mailing address to:


Kayaker's Code of Conduct

The Kayak Education Leadership Program (KELP) has developed viewing guidelines specifically for kayakers. The Kayaker’s Code of Conduct provides information on responsible kayaking near whales and other wildlife and can be found on the Whale Museum’s web page at:


Land-Based Viewing

Learn about viewing marine mammals from shore. Visit The Whale Trail web page at: http://thewhaletrail.org/

More Information

Related Links

To report marine mammal sightings:

The Whale Museum Hotline (U.S. and Canada):
hotline@whalemuseum.org or 1-800-562-8832

Orca Network (WA state)
info@orcanetwork.org or 1-866-ORCANET

BC Cetacean Sightings Network (Canada)
www.wildwhales.org or 1-866- I SAW ONE

Download WhaleReport App on
iTunes and Google Play

Need more information?


Victoria and Southern Gulf Islands, Johnstone Strait and Northern Vancouver Island, West Coast Vancouver Island:

www.straitwatch.org or 1-250-590-7723

Robson Bight (Michael Bigg) Ecological Reserve:

Fisheries and Oceans Canada:

North Island Marine Mammal Stewardship Association:


Washington State, Haro Strait Region:
Soundwatch Boater Education Program
www.whalemuseum.org or 1-360-378-4710

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife:

NOAA Fisheries, Northwest Region:

NOAA Fisheries, Office of Protected Resources:

Pacific Whale Watch Association:

Share The Shore

Seals and sea lions use shoreline habitat every day to rest and regulate their body temperature.  Please share the shore and do not disturb seals and sea lions when they are on land.

  1. Give animals space. Move away at the first sign of disturbance or agitation. Seals and sea lions on land are easily disturbed and may change position, move away, flee, trample or abandon pups. Animals may become stressed and repeated interruptions by you and others may be harmful to their health. Even if you don’t see these reactions, keep yourself a safe distance to make sure you are not disrupting their behavior.
  2. Be considerate of mothers and pups. Seals and sea lions come ashore to rest, regulate their body temperature, and nurse their young. It is normal for mothers to leave pups behind while they are feeding offshore (up to 24 hours). Keep your distance so mom can return to care for her pup.
  3. Keep pets away and on a leash. Pets can disturb or harm wildlife, or may separate mothers from their pups. These are wild animals that can injure or spread disease to pets and humans.
  4. For your safety and the health of the animals, we recommend staying 100 yards away from all marine mammals on shore.

The West Coast provides many opportunities to observe seals and sea lions as they swim, rest, or tend to their young. For your safety and the animals’ health, never approach or interact with a marine mammal. Find a safe distance to view these wild animals. Bring your binoculars and enjoy spotting local seals and sea lions.

All marine mammals are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. It is against the law to feed or harass them, which includes disrupting important behaviors, such as resting, feeding, nursing, or breeding.

View a Public Service Announcement about Sharing the Shore

For more information on sharing the shore with seals and sea lions on the West Coast, please visit the NOAA Fisheries web site.

To report a stranded or injured marine mammal please call 1-866-767-6144.

For more information on the West Coast Marine Mammal Stranding Network and to learn about local groups in your area, please visit.

More information on Marine Mammal Safe Viewing.