2 boaters fined for getting too close to orca whales

Endangered Orcas Get New Protection From Us Government
Elaine Thompson

FILE - In this Jan. 18, 2014, file photo, a female resident orca whale breaches while swimming in Puget Sound near Bainbridge Island, Wash., as seen from a federally permitted research vessel. The National Marine Fisheries Service has finalized rules to expand the Southern Resident orca's critical habitat from the Canadian border down to Point Sur, Calif., adding 15,910 square miles, (41,207 square kilometers) of foraging areas, river mouths and migratory pathways.

SEATTLE (AP) — Two boaters accused of illegally approaching endangered Southern Resident killer whales in rented boats were fined for violating regulations that protect the whales, NOAA Fisheries said Wednesday.

State and federal regulations require recreational boats to stay at least 300 yards (274 meters) to the sides of orcas and 400 yards (375 meters) in front and behind them, KOMO-TV reported.

A boater from Entitat, Washington got within 100 yards of the J Pod off the west side of San Juan Island on Sept. 30, officials said. The boater acknowledged he was too close and said he was not aware of the distance regulations at the time. An investigation found that the rental company did not provide him with information on the state and federal regulations.

The boater paid a $300 fine.

In the second incident, a boater from Roslyn got within 100 yards of the whales with his engine running. The rental company had provided information on viewing regulations. The man said he got too close to the whales but claimed the boat was turned off. A video and photos showed the boat creating a wake, indicating it was moving forward.

The man was fined $3,000, but he accepted a settlement agreement in which he admitted liability in exchange for paying $2,700.