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Protect Yourself and the Whales

The marine mammal viewing guidelines are intended to help boaters avoid accidentally violating the Marine Mammal Protection Act & Endangered Species Act.

These guidelines apply to all large whales except North Atlantic right whales.  Approaching a right whale within 500 yards (1500 feet) is prohibited. See the Right Whale Approach Regulations for more details.

It is illegal to interrupt any marine mammal’s natural behavior.  If your behavior changes their behavior, back away!

2 miles away from whales

Reduce Speed to 13 knots.

Post dedicated lookout.

Avoid sudden changes in speed and direction.

1 mile - ½ mile away from whales

Reduce speed to 10 knots

½ mile or less from whales

Reduce speed to 7 knots.

Avoid head on approach.


Maintain a minimum altitude of 1,000feet over the water (or 1500 feet for right whales).

300 feet -100 Feet Away From Whales
(Stand-by & Close Approach Zone)

Parallel course & speed of whales. 

Do not attempt head-on approach.

Approach and leave stationary whales at no wake speed.

Do not intentionally drift down on whales.

Do not exceed 7 knots in  Stand-by Zone.


In Multi-Vessel Approaches:

Vesselsmaintain communication & coordinate viewing.

Two vessel limit within Stand-by Zone.

One vessel limit in Close Approach Zone.

Close Approach vessel time limited to 15 minutes.

Departure Procedure

Leave whales following same procedures described for applicable distances away from whales.  Vessels should depart whales and return to port 15 minutes before sunset.

No Intentional Approach within 100 feet

If whale approaches within 100feet, put vessel engine in neutral and do not re-engage propulsion until whale observed clear of harm’s way.


Drop sails and use auxiliary engines while whale watching to maintain more maneuverability.


Interrupting natural behaviors of marine mammals, such as feeding, nursing, resting, and traveling is against the law.