Regulations on Vessel Effects for Southern Resident Killer Whales
We listed the Southern Resident killer whales as endangered under the Endangered Species (ESA) on November 18, 2005. We identified vessel effects, including physical interference and sound, as a potential contributing factor in the population’s decline. Before the ESA listing, we had designated Southern Resident killer whales as a depleted stock under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA).
Both the MMPA and the ESA prohibit take, including harassment, of killer whales, but these statutes do not prohibit specified acts. The recovery plan for Southern Resident killer whales includes as a management action the evaluation of current vessel guidelines and the need for regulations and/or protected areas.
In 2007, we requested input on potential regulations to protect killer whales from the effects of various vessel activities. We released proposed vessel regulations in July 2009, held public meetings, and took comments on them until January 2010. The regulations were finalized in 2011 and we are evaluating how effective they have been in reducing vessel impacts to the Southern Resident killer whales.
December 2017: NOAA released Technical Memo NMFSOPR-58: Reducing Disturbance from Vessels to Southern Resident Killer Whales: Assessing the Effectiveness of the 2011 Federal Regulations in Advancing Recovery Goals
- Fact Sheet: Vessel Regulations Prove Effective for Endangered Killer whales (PDF, 2 pages)
- Webstory: Vessel rules benefit endangered killer whales, review finds
Comments on the whale protection zone petition are posted at regulations.gov - https://www.regulations.gov/docket?D=NOAA-NMFS-2016-0152
November 2016: Petition requesting NMFS establish a whale protection zone
March 28, 2013: Killer whale protection workshop
May 16, 2011: Vessel regulations to protect killer whales became effective
April 14, 2011: News release on killer whale vessel regulations
- References cited in killer whale vessels regulations FRN
- Questions & Answers on killer whale vessel regulations
- Environmental assessment (EA) on killer whale vessel regulations
- Regulatory impact review on killer whale vessel regulations
April 8, 2011: We announced final regulations to protect killer whales in Washington State from the effects of various vessel activities.
January 10, 2010: Public comment period ends for proposed killer whale vessel regulations
October 19, 2009: NOAA Fisheries extends public comment period for proposed killer whale vessel regulations (74 FR 53454)