See A Spout, Watch Out! helps boaters avoid dangerous collisions with whales through 6 simple steps.
- See a spout, watch out!
- Head on is wrong!
- Lots of boats, then talk to folks!
- Avoid trouble, steer clear of bubbles!
- Don't chase, give the whales space!
- Drop your sails when watching whales!
Following these tips can help you safely and responsibly watch whales from your own boat.
For more details on each of these tips, dive deeper below.
1. SEE A SPOUT, WATCH OUT!
If you see a spout, tail, or breaching whale, please slow down and post a lookout. Some whales may dive for 20 minutes or more while searching for food. If you've seen one whale, many more could be close - maybe too close to your boat and its spinning propellers. Proceed cautiously!
2. HEAD ON IS WRONG!
Always parallel the whale’s course and don’t approach head-on or cut off the whale’s path. Coming at a whale head on could alter a whale's path changing its behavior. In addition, keep your boat a safe distance by following official guidelines of whale watching.
3. LOTS OF BOATS, THEN TALK TO FOLKS!
If there are other boats watching or traveling near whales, then hail them on your VHF radio (channel 9 or 16) and coordinate your viewing efforts.
4. AVOID TROUBLE, STEER CLEAR OF BUBBLES!
Humpback whales sometimes feed by creating "bubble clouds". The whales blow bubbles below the surface of the water to condense schools of fish. With mouths wide open, the whales surface through the middle (and sometimes outside) of the bubble cloud taking in the fish. Bubble clouds look like light green, foamy patches on the surface of the water. Birds often hover over them to take advantage of the available fish. Never approach or drive through a bubble cloud, as a feeding whale is likely to be just below the surface.
5. DON'T CHASE, GIVE WHALES SPACE!
Closely approaching a whale may cause the animal to move away from its food source. Respect the whale's behavior and keep your distance. If a whale moves away, don't chase it. A cautious boater may get to see whales feeding, playing or breaching. Enjoy the whales; don't endanger them!
6. DROP YOUR SAILS WHEN WATCHING WHALES!
A boat under sail may not be able to reduce speed or stop at a safe distance from a surfacing whale. When in the vicinity of whales, it is best to utilize your auxiliary motor and proceed cautiously. For additional tips on safe sailing around whales, visit Sharing the Seas.
How much do you know about responsible whale watching? Click here to take a quiz to test your safe boating knowledge.
What Can You Do?
Recreational boaters can help to save protected species through safe boating and reporting sightings. You are often the first to encounter whales in distress and can help share that information with the right organizations. Knowing who to contact, and when, is a great first step in contributing to conservation efforts. When in doubt, you can always radio the US Coast Guard via Ch.16.