A Spout, Watch Out Program
The See a Spout logo has been incorporated into rack cards,
posters and decals. Numerous organizations have signed on
to this boating safety program.
A Spout, Watch Out! An online whale watch boaters'
education course. This program includes a brief, educational
slide show (comprised of 18 slides) that offers five tips
to encourage safe and responsible boating when in the vicinity
of whales. We believe that this course benefits both the
whales and the whale watchers.
the summer of 1998, high-speed whale watch vessels in Massachusetts
struck two whales, with one strike resulting in a fatality. As
a result of these strikes, the Northeast Large Whale Implementation
Team convened a Whale Watch Advisory Group (WWAG) consisting of
members of the commercial whale watch industry, conservation groups,
and representatives from NOAA Fisheries and the Stellwagen Bank
National Marine Sanctuary (SBNMS). These meetings resulted in
NOAA Fisheries issuing new whale watch guidelines, as well as
an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rule Making (ANPRM) to solicit
comments regarding the need for whale watching regulations in
lieu of guidelines.
new whale watching guidelines were formulated, no mechanism for
public outreach was incorporated to educate private boaters. As
a result, a multi-phase program called "See A Spout, Watch Out"
was developed as a cooperative outreach project of the International
Wildlife Coalition (IWC) and the Sanctuary.
one of this program targets boaters through boater safety classes
conducted by Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotillas, the Massachusetts
Environmental Police, the regional Power Squadrons, and other
boating organizations. In addition, posters and tide-chart rack
cards are being placed at strategic locations such as boating
supply stores, yacht clubs, and marinas. The second phase of this
program includes permanently fixed aluminum signs at boat ramps,
fuel docks, and boat launches. Since the ANPRM was issued in January
2000 and NOAA Fisheries has not yet published a proposed rule,
this program does not delineate specific regulations/guidelines
but instead, uses catch phrases as guides to responsible vessel
behavior around whales.
A Spout, Watch Out!
you see a spout, or a tail, or a breaching whale, please slow
down and post a lookout. Some whales dive 20 minutes or more searching
for food. If youve seen one whale, many more could be close-maybe
too close to your boat and its spinning propellers. Proceed cautiously!
On Is Wrong!
alter a whales path by cutting it off. When in sight of
a whale, follow official guidelines and adhere to existing regulations
that restrict or prohibit closely approaching whales. Always keep
your boat a safe distance; dont risk striking a whale. Federal
law prohibits the harassment of all marine mammals. Federal NOAA
Fisheries regulations and Massachusetts laws prohibit approaching
the highly endangered North Atlantic right whale closer than 500
Of Boats, Then Talk To Folks!
there are other boats watching or traveling near whales, hail
them on your VHF radio (channel 9 or 16) and coordinate your viewing
Trouble, Steer Clear of Bubbles!
whales sometimes feed by creating what are called bubble
clouds. The whales blow bubbles below the surface of the
water to confuse and condense schools of small fish. With mouths
wide open, the whales surface through the middle of the bubble
cloud engulfing large numbers of dazed fish. Bubble clouds look
like light green, foamy patches on the surface of the water. Birds
often hover over them to take advantage of the readily available
fish. Never approach, or drive through, a bubble cloud as a feeding
whale is likely to be just below the surface.
Chase, Give The Whales Space!
approaching a whale may cause the animal to move away from its
food source. Respect the whales behavior and keep your distance.
If a whale moves away, dont chase it. A cautious boater
may bet to see whales feeding, playing or breaching. Enjoy the
whales; dont endanger them!
one of "See A Spout, Watch Out" specifically targets Massachusetts
boaters and includes a brief educational slide show with script
for incorporation in boater safety courses. Information provided
include: information about the Sanctuary, its importance as a
seasonal feeding area for cetaceans, and five tips for proper
boating behavior when in the vicinity of whales. Decals, tide-chart
rack cards, and registration cards are given to course participants.
Registration cards will provide feedback regarding the program
and help in contacting participants for a follow up assessment
of this program. Current estimates indicate that more than 5,000
safe boating course participants are likely to receive this information
four-color posters, and rack cards will be placed at marinas,
yacht clubs, and boating supplies stores. The tide-chart on the
back of the rack card is a means to encourage boaters to keep
the "tip card" on their vessel while the poster will serve as
for phase one of this program came from the Dolphin Trust.
goal of phase two of this program is to target Massachusetts residents
and transient boaters through the placement of permanently affixed
signs at boat ramps, fuel docks, and launch services. The 18"
x 24" vinyl-coated, black and white, aluminum signs contain the
five tips outlined above, but also contain stronger language and
notification that federal/state laws prohibit approaches to right
funding and support for phase two came from the Center for Coastal
Studies, the Cetacean Society International, the Humane Society
of the United States, the International Fund for Animal Welfare,
the Massachusetts Environmental Police, and the Plymouth Marine
Mammal Research Center.
additional information, questions, or comments concerning this
program please contact:
Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS)
East Falmouth Highway
East Falmouth, MA 02536