Another summer season approaches for whale watching in Hoonah Alaska. Icy Strait will be busy with the wildlife getting their pictures taken. Humpback whales, seal lions, seals, and maybe some killer whales are gonna be swimming around my neck of the woods. Southeast Alaska is a great place to view these animals and there is a very good chance you will observe their young. The food supply starts coming in and the young learn how to hunt and where to hunt.
Some guidelines for viewing can be found at the NOAA website.
I will go thru some right now:
Federal law prohibits pursuit of marine mammals.
Remain at least 100 yards from marine mammals.
Time spent observing individual(s) should be limited to 30 minutes.
Whales should not be encircled or trapped between boats, or boats and shore.
If approached by a whale, put the engine in neutral and allow the whale to pass
Most people want to feed animals in the wild on land or in the ocean, this is illegal. Even if approached by a marine mammal:
Offering food, discarding fish or fish waste, or any other food item is prohibited. Do not touch or swim with the animals. They can behave unpredictably and may also transmit disease. I’m not sure I agree with the disease part, but it’s always good idea to keep your hands to yourself. Take a picture instead!
It is my policy to not disturb. Everyone wants to get closer. The traffic for whale watching in Hoonah Alaska is low compared to other Southeast towns. That means less disturbance to wildlife and they hang around to feed.
While viewing marine mammals, your actions should not cause a change in the behavior of the animals. Individual animal’s reactions will vary; carefully observe all animals in the vicinity. Assume that your action is a disturbance and cautiously leave the vicinity if you observe behaviors such as these:
Seals, Sea Lions, and Fur Seals:
Increased movements to get away from vessel or disturbance.
Increased vocalization or aggressive behavior. You can tell when animal is agitated.
Whales, Dolphins, and Porpoise:
Changes in swimming. . . such as rapid changes in direction, speed; erratic swimming patterns. Escape tactics such as prolonged diving , underwater exhalation, underwater course changes, or rapid swimming at the surface. Female attempting to shield a calf with her body or by her movements. Surface displays. . . like tail slapping or lateral tail swishing at the surface.
I will be posting more in the future concerning respectful viewing in our area, Icy Strait by Hoonah Alaska. Stay tuned.