Although the quick answer is no, there is more to the story. Most of us are enamored by whales. We want to see them up close and find ways to protect both them, and the ocean they live in. However, it is possible that some may love them too much. Humans’ attempts to get closer to these wild marine animals causes stress and stress related complications for the whales.
In the case of southern resident killer whales, the stress caused by whale watching boats is more pronounced. As the whales struggle to survive each day with increasing human noise pollution and decreasing food supplies, they also have to contend with an army of whale watching boats that seek to find and watch the whales.
With only 75 southern resident killer whales left, it is time to start asking the hard questions. A recent bill introduced by the governor’s task force recommended suspending all boat-based whale watching for the next 3 to 5 years. The goal was to test whether or not whale watching affects these animals. Instead of banning whale watching altogether, the final decision was to set limits on how close the boats could get to the whales. The minimum distance was increased from 100 to 300 yards, however, that distance may not be enough given the ease at which engine motor noise carries under water.
The debate remains strong in Washington State between the whale watchers and the conservationists. For now, the responsible thing to do is give any whales a wide berth. We want to protect and save these whales, even if that means letting them live their lives in peace.