The following are the Washington State regulations taken from bewhalewise.com. They state that in the inland waters of Washington State, you must:
- Maintain 200 yards minimum distance if the whale is a Bigg’s Transient Killer Whale
- Maintain 100 yards minimum distance from whales including dolphins and porpoises.
- Maintain 200 yards if a cetacean is resting or with a calf.
- Do not approach a marine mammal to feed it, swim/interact with it, move it or entice it to move from its immediate vicinity, separate it from members of its group, or trap it between a vessel and the shore or between a vessel and one or more other vessels.
While we follow every precaution possible and attempt to predict actions, animals have minds of their own. What they do is entirely up to them and sometimes an abrupt, unpredictable change of travel or behavior occurs. Observing animals that possess the ability to “disappear” below the waterline, then change direction or speed in an instant, can sometimes surprise vessels with an unintended close encounter! At these surprise encounters, we follow the recommended best course of action and either go into neutral or fully shut our engines down, waiting for the individual(s) to exit the regulated proximity at their leisure.
Objects on the water may not be as close as they appear
Water is a tricky thing. Without landmarks on the horizon to help gauge perspective, the ability to gather distances can sometimes be deceiving. This is especially amplified with camera lenses and binoculars due to their convex nature. Known as “foreshortening,” to the untrained eye, what looks like mere feet away from certain perspectives may very well be hundreds of yards away. Our captains are experienced in estimating distances and constantly adapt and maneuver to be well outside the regulated ranges. We also have different tools such as Laser Range Finders and RADAR onboard for verification. Here is a great example to show how lens compression works.