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July 5, 2022

Boaters must keep distance from orcas

OLYMPIA — A new emergency ruling has been put in place by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to protect vulnerable orca populations in the region. In June, the SeaLife Response Rehabilitation and Research team was contracted by the department to monitor Southern Resident killer whale body conditions. Using measurements from drone photographs taken between September 2021 and April 2022 they found that 13 orcas were either malnourished, underdeveloped or pregnant, resulting in the need for the order.

The emergency order means that commercial sightseeing vessels and boaters need to stay at least half a nautical mile away from endangered southern resident killer whales this summer. The department said that the order is necessary due to the “established connection between boats and the whales' foraging success, the high rate of failed pregnancies among Southern Residents in recent years, and the small number of breeding females in the population.”

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