Vessel speed reduced near whales in Southeast locale

    Bartlett Cove, Alaska (KINY) Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve Acting Superintendent Jacob Ohlson announced Tuesday that a vessel speed limit of 13 knots through the water for all vessels is being implemented in Whidbey Passage and around Willoughby Island to protect numerous humpback whales that have been sighted in this area.

    During recent vessel-based surveys of this area, at least 19 different humpback whales have been observed feeding in this area. In addition, the 13-knot speed restriction and 1 nm from shore or mid-channel course restriction remain in place in Lower Bay Whale Waters.

    These operating restrictions are effective from 5 a.m. Wednesday, June 26 until further notice.

    As shown on the attached map, the new whale waters area in Whidbey Passage and surrounding Willoughby Island is defined as follows:

    • Willoughby Island: All waters within 1 nautical mile of Willoughby Island.
    • Whidbey Passage Northern Boundary: a line from the northern tip of Drake Island to the mouth of Geikie Inlet;
    • Whidbey Passage Western Boundary: the western shore of Whidbey Passage, excluding Fingers Bay and Berg Bay;
    • Whidbey Passage Southern Boundary: is continguous with the northern boundary of Lower Glacier Bay whale waters;
    • WhidbeyPassage Southeastern Boundary: extends from the northern tip of Strawberry Island to the southern tip of Willoughby Island.

    Speed and course restrictions in whale waters are intended to reduce the disruption of feeding humpback whales and to lower the risk of whale/vessel collisions, as authorized by Title 36 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Subpart N, 13.1174.

    Vessels are prohibited from operating within one-quarter nautical mile of a humpback whale in Park waters, including those Park waters outside Glacier Bay proper. Vessels positioned within one-half nautical mile of a humpback whale are prohibited from altering their course or speed in a manner that results in decreasing the distance between the whale and the vessel. Boaters should proceed cautiously in all areas where whales may be present because whales may surface in unexpected locations, posing a hazard to both the vessel and the whale. 

    Boaters are advised to verify whale waters designations prior to entering Glacier Bay by telephoning 697-2627 or by contacting KWM20 Bartlett Cove on marine VHF radio.

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