Northeast Region including Stellwagen Bank
whales, dolphins and porpoises in the northeast region are
federally protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act
(MMPA) and most large whales in the area are further protected
under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Under these Acts,
it is illegal to "harass, hunt, capture or kill" any marine
mammal. Prohibited conduct includes any "negligent or intentional
act which results in the disturbing or molesting of marine
following operational procedures are intended to avoid harassment
and possible injury to large whales, particularly finbacks,
humpbacks and minke whales, commonly seen by vessels engaged
in whale watching. Following the guidelines can help protect
both you and the whale you wish to watch and keep you from
accidentally violating federal law.
When in Sight of Whales Two miles to one mile away
Reduce speed to 13 knots.
a dedicated lookout to assist the vessel operator in monitoring
the location of all marine mammals.
Avoid sudden changes in speed and direction.
Aircraft observe the FAA minimum altitude of 1,000 feet over water.
One mile to one-half mile away
One half mile or less
Close Approach Procedure (600 feet or closer)
the course and speed of moving whales up to the designated
speed limit within that distance.
Do not attempt a head-on approach to whale.
and leave stationary whales at no more than idle or "no wake"
speed, not to exceed 7 knots.
Do not intentionally drift down on whales.
in multi-vessel approaches should monitor radios and communicate
with each other (channel 9, 13, or 16 for hailing) to coordinate
into account the presence of obstacles (vessels, structures,
fishing gear, or the shoreline). All vessels in close approach
must stay to the side or behind the whales so they do not
box in the whales or cut off their path.
Stand-by Zone (within 300 to 600 feet)
Close Approach Zone (100 to 300 feet)
one vessel at a time. l When one vessel is within 300 feet
of a whale, up to 2 other vessels can be in the Stand-by Zone
at least 300 feet from the whale; any additional vessels should
remain outside the Stand-by Zone.
more than one vessel is within 600 feet, the vessel within
300 feet should limit its time to 15 minutes in close approach
No Intentional Approach (100 feet away or closer)
Right Whale Regulations
right whale is protected by separate State and Federal regulations
that prohibit approach within 500 yards of this species.
Any vessel finding itself within the 500 yard buffer zone
created by a surfacing right whale must depart immediately
at a safe slow speed. The only vessels allowed to remain
within 500 yards of a right whale are vessels with appropriate
research permits, commercial fishing vessels in the act
of hauling back or towing gear, or any vessel given prior
approval by NMFS to investigate a potential entanglement.
violation of the Marine Mammal Protection Act or the Endangered
Species Act may result in fines or civil penalties of up to $10,000
or criminal penalties of up to $20,000 plus IMPRISONMENT and/or
SEIZURE OF VESSEL and other personal property.
Helpful HOTLINE Numbers and Whale Watching Information
For more information on the whalewatching guidelines or laws pertaining to marine mammals in the northeast region, visit:
http://www.nero.noaa.gov or www.whalesense.org
To report a stranded, injured, entangled or dead marine mammal or sea turtle, call:
866-755-NOAA (2266) or contact the U.S. Coast Guard via VH16
--If possible, please stand by an entangled whale until a response vessel arrives. If you must depart, please document your sighting with photos or videos and report the time, location, and the whale's direction of travel when you left the scene.
To report presumed marine law violations, call NOAA's Office of Law Enforcement: