Safe Whale Watching on the West Coast - Be Whale Wise
Whales are federally protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, so stay at least 100 yards away from whales - the length of a football field. In Puget Sound, stay 200 yards away from any killer whale.
Give Whales Space
Whales are federally protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act from acts of harassment. To avoid harassing a marine mammal, stay at least 100 yards—the length of a football field—away from whales. In Puget Sound, stay 200 yards away from any killer whale.
Admiring whales from a distance is the safest and most responsible way to view them in their natural habitat. They are wild, unpredictable animals that can move surprisingly fast. Approaching them too closely endangers you and the whales, and may violate federal law.
- Buzzing, hovering, landing, taking off, and taxiing near marine mammals on land or in the water is likely to harass the animals.
- Fly during daylight hours only and keep your drone in sight.
- Stop your vessel before flying your drone.
If you see a whale, follow these responsible viewing guidelines:
Slow down and operate at a no-wake speed.
Stay out of the path of the whale’s direction of travel. Specifically in Puget Sound, stay out of the path of killer whales by 400 yards—i.e., about four football fields.
Do not put your vessel between whales, especially mothers and calves.
Do not chase or harass them, and do not approach the animals head-on, from directly behind them, or from the side (t-bone). Instead, gradually steer your vessel to be parallel to the animals from the side and stay at least 100 yards away—i.e., the length of a football field.
To report a dead, injured, or stranded marine mammal in Washington, Oregon, or California:
- West Coast Region Stranding Hotline: 1-866-767-6114
- Regional Stranding Response Contacts
To report entangled marine mammals:
- Entanglement Reporting Hotline: 1-877-SOS-WHAL or 1-877-767-9425
- The U.S. Coast Guard: VHF Ch. 16
To report harassments and other violations to law enforcement:
NOAA Enforcement Hotline: 1-800-853-1964
To report derelict gear:
Derelict Gear Hotline: 1-855-542-3935
- Be Whale Wise - Guidelines for CA, OR & WA(PDF, 2 pages)
- Marine Mammals of the West Coast(PDF, 2 pages)