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Proposed Ban on Whale Watching in Washington State

Whales are notably among the most majestic sea creatures to witness in the wild. Orcas, one of the representative species of whales, are the largest members of the oceanic dolphin family. They are also called killer whales for their ability to take down large marine life, such as sea lions and other whales. Sadly, the number of Pacific Northwest killer whales is dwindling and facing lowest population numbers in over three decades, with only 74 remaining in the area. Concern over the reduced population has led the Washington state task force to call for a whale watching tour ban to protect the remaining orca pods.

A solid argument can be made for the disruption of whale feeding due to boat traffic. Marine life experts believe that the white noise made from boats interrupts the whale’s ability to feed, particularly making it challenging for them to find salmon, a main staple of the orca’s diet. For this reason, the governor’s advisors voted Tuesday to recommend a three- to five-year moratorium on whale watching. It is hoped that this will increase the orca’s ability to search for food more easily in order to bring up their numbers. However, critics of the possible ban disagree that whale watching tours are a primary cause of the problem. They point out other issues that are contributing to the starving whales, such as noise from commercial fishing boats and overall diminishing food supply.

The proposed whale watching ban could have a significant negative effect on seasonal whale watching businesses and on Washington state ecotourism. Whale watching companies provide valuable opportunities for tourists to witness and gain respect for whales in the wild. Members of the Pacific Whale Watching Association support research, education, and the responsible viewing of wildlife. Per PWWA, “Many of our captains and naturalists are marine scientists and educators, and we consider our boats to be classrooms on the water. We’re also committed to direct conservation, using our extraordinary access to these sensitive population of marine mammals to help protect them for generations to come.” As areas of the world increasingly become urbanized, societies must learn to live in harmony with animals. If the temporary ban is approved by Jay Inslee, Governor of Washington, the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife will be responsible for enforcing the ban.

 

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