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Whale Watches with Whale SENSE

May 23, 2015

Contacts: Jennifer Goebel, NOAA Fisheries, 978-281-9175 or Monica Pepe, Whale and Dolphin Conservation

Whale watch season is off to a great start here in the Northeast, with dozens of humpbacks, minke, and fin whales feeding, resting, and socializing in the area. Through Whale SENSE, a voluntary responsible whale watching program sponsored by NOAA and Whale and Dolphin Conservation, whale watchers can be assured that their exhilarating experiences with the whales are not interfering with the whales' natural behaviors.

The Whale SENSE program, which started seven years ago in collaboration with Atlantic Coast whale watching companies, now spans two coasts. A total of 13 whale watch companies in Maine, Massachusetts, New York, and New Jersey will participate in the 2015 program, and, as of this spring, seven new participants have joined in Juneau, Alaska.

"The growth of the Whale SENSE program offers passengers a means of choosing a company that will provide them with the most up-to-date information on whales, while ensuring that the trip is safe for not only the passengers, but also the whales," says Monica Pepe of Whale and Dolphin Conservation.

Whale SENSE participants follow viewing guidelines by reducing speeds, keeping a safe distance, and communicating with other vessels. They also pledge to advertise responsibly by captioning pictures to inform their passengers of how whales are protected.

In addition, Whale SENSE participants receive annual training on whale protection laws, and participate in environmental conservation projects, such as beach clean-ups or internship programs. In the event that they see a marine animal is in distress, they also stand by the animal until authorized rescuers arrive.

 "Whale SENSE reminds us to think about the needs of the animals along with the needs of the industry. The expansion of Whale SENSE to Alaskan waters unites the industry in our mission to watch whales and other marine wildlife in a responsible way," said Stanley Tavares, owner of Plymouth and Provincetown Whale Watching.

All whales in U.S. waters are protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act, which makes it illegal to injure, kill, or harass whales.

"We feel that affording whales the right to exist in relative peace by following Whale SENSE protocols for responsible whale watching is important for the long-term well-being of all whales," said Blair Perkins, owner and captain of Shearwater Excursions.

Having served more than 1 million passengers, Whale SENSE companies continue to be the SENSE-ible whale watching choice. To find out if a whale watch company participates in the program, check for the new Whale SENSE logo that is displayed on all participating vessels.

Get a list of Whale SENSE participants in your area, and keep up with Whale SENSE on Facebook.

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WDC, Whale and Dolphin Conservation (formerly WDCS) is the leading global charity dedicated to the conservation and protection of whales and dolphins. We defend these remarkable creatures against the many threats they face through campaigns, lobbying, advising governments, conservation projects, field research and rescue. Our vision is a world where every whale and dolphin is safe and free. 

NOAA's mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources.