WHALE WATCHING GUIDELINE COMPLIANCE
operational procedures (guidelines ) have been established
by the whale watching industry in the northeast region of the
United States, in cooperation with government agencies and non-profit
conservation organizations. Their intent is to avoid harassment
and possible injury to large whales by both commercial and recreational
vessels. One important aspect of these guidelines is a series
of recommended speeds within various distances of the whales.
To measure compliance with this aspect of the guidelines, we places
inconspicuous observers onboard thirty-five commercial whale watching
trips that occurred in and around the SBNMS. Observations were
made from August to October 2003. Vessel speed and position was
measured using a WAAS-enabled GPS receiver with an accuracy of
approximately 3 meters. Data were collected at five second intervals
from the time of departure from port until the vessel's return.
Military-grade binoculars with internal laser rangefinder and
digital compass were used to record the range and bearing to sighted
whales, allowing their location to be calculated. Both data sources
were processed and mapped using ArcView GIS. Compliance was evaluated
by creating guideline specified speed zone buffers around the
sighted whales and overlaying the with the vessel track and speed
data. Speeds in excess of those prescribed by the guidelines were
guidelines for the Northeast Region including the Stellwagen Bank
National Marine Sanctuary (Credit http://www.nero.noaa.gov/shipstrike/doc/guidetxt.htm)
indicated that whale watching vessels often ignored speed zone
guidelines and that the degree of non-compliance increased as
distance from the whale(s) increased. Non-compliance levels were
63% in Zone 1, 92% in Zone 2 and 94% in Zone 3.
support for this research was provided by the International Fund
for Animal Welfare.
Carlson, C., Wiley, D. N., and Moller, J. C. 2005. Compliance
with voluntary speed guidelines by the commercial whale watching
industry in and around Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary.
The 16th Biennial Conference on the Biology of Marine Mammals,
Society for Marine Mammalogy; San Diego, CA; December 12-16.