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“See a Spout” Education for Recreational Boat Operators


NOAA has partnered with the Whale & Dolphin Conservation Society in a public outreach program for recreational boaters called “See a Spout, Watch Out!” This program targets boaters through boater safety classes and other boating/fishing organizations.

See a Spout, Watch Out! online boater education course Coming Soon!

To download a “See a Spout" brochure (PDF) click here.

See a Spout, Watch Out! Tips

  1. See A Spout, Watch Out! If you see a spout, tail, or a breaching whale, please slow down and post a lookout. Some whales may dive for 20 minutes or more while searching for food. If you’ve seen one whale, many more could be close-maybe too close to your boat and its spinning propellers. Proceed cautiously!
  1. Head On Is Wrong! Don’t alter a whale’s path by cutting it off. When in sight of a whale, follow official approach guidelines and adhere to existing regulations that restrict or prohibit closely approaching whales. Always keep your boat a safe distance away; don’t risk striking a whale. Federal law prohibits the harassment of all marine mammals. Federal regulations and Massachusetts law prohibit approaching the highly endangered North Atlantic right whale closer than 500 yards (1500 feet).
  1. Lots of Boats, Then Talk to Folks! If there are other boats watching or traveling near whales, hail them on your VHF radio (channel 9, 13 or 16 for hailing) and coordinate your viewing efforts.
  1. Avoid Trouble, Steer Clear of Bubbles! Humpback whales sometimes feed by creating “bubble clouds”. They 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.
  1. Don’t Chase, Give The Whales Space! Closely approaching a whale may cause the animal to move away from its food source. Respect the whale’s behavior and keep your distance. If a whale moves away, don’t chase it. A cautious boater may bet to see whales feeding, playing or breaching. Enjoy the whales; don’t endanger them!
  1. Drop Your Sails When Watching Whales! A boat under sail may not be able to reduce speed or stop at a safe distance from a surfacing whale. When in the vicinity of whales, it is best to utilize your auxiliary motor and proceed cautiously.

For MA, NH, & RI Residents: To schedule a free presentation or to request educational materials for your organization, contact Allison Rosner at 978-282-8462 or email

For more information, contact the Protected Resources Division of NOAA Fisheries Service’s Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office: 978-281-9328