Alaska Humpback Whale Approach Regulations
Effective July 2, 2001, NOAA Fisheries issued a final rule to establish measures to protect humpback whales, Megaptera novaeangliae, in waters within 200 nautical miles (370.4 km) of Alaska. Under these regulations it is unlawful for a person subject to the jurisdiction of the United States to approach, by any means, with some exceptions, within 100 yards (91.4 m) of a humpback whale.
In this September 2016 final rule, NOAA Fisheries, is making technical amendments to and recodifying Alaska humpback whale approach regulations within the Code of Federal Regulations with only minor, technical revisions. Specifically, we are recodifying the regulations that apply to “Endangered Marine and Anadromous Species” so that they also appear in “Threatened Marine and Anadromous Species”. This action is necessary to reflect the change in the Endangered Species Act listing status of humpback whales, whereby some populations of humpback whales will now be classified as endangered species and one will be classified as a threatened species. In addition, we are adding the Alaska approach regulations to the regulations governing the taking and importing of marine mammals under the Marine Mammal Protection Act to clarify that protections are in effect for all humpback whales that may occur in or transit through the waters surrounding Alaska, including those that are not ESA-listed. This clarification reflects that the approach regulations were originally adopted under the MMPA as well as the ESA. We are also making minor changes to the language of the existing regulations to modernize language and update citations to relevant authorities.