Best practices for whale watching in the us canadian transboundary waters of haro strait
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Best Practices for Whale Watching in the US/Canadian Transboundary Waters of Haro Strait The Whale Museum’s Soundwatch Boater Education Program Whale Watching in the Haro Strait Region

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Best practices for whale watching in the us canadian transboundary waters of haro strait l.jpg

Best Practices for Whale Watching in the US/Canadian Transboundary Waters of Haro Strait

The Whale Museum’s Soundwatch Boater Education Program

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Whale Watching in the Haro Strait Region Transboundary Waters of Haro Strait

Over the past ten years whale watching activities have grown into a billion dollar ($USD) industry involving over 80 countries and territories and over 9 million participants (Hoyt 2001). The Canadian/U.S. boundary waters of Haro Strait are often referred to as one of the busiest whale watching areas in the world, with over 80 commercial vessels originating from nearly 50 companies in the US and Canada. Soundwatch estimates that last year more than 500,000 people went whale watching from commercial boats, while 3,000-8,000 engaged in whale watching from private boats, and another 10,000 from private and commercial kayaks.

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Federal Marine Mammal Viewing Guidelines Are Not Regulations Transboundary Waters of Haro Strait

Currently there are no marine wildlife viewing or whale watch “regulations” in U. S. or Canadian waters of the Salish Sea. In the U.S., marine mammals are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 and are managed by the National Marine Fisheries Service who have sole jurisdiction (excepting walrus and sea otters) superceding any state or local governments. Fisheries and Oceans Canada manage marine mammals under the Fisheries and Oceans Act of 1978-79, but there is no marine mammal protection act equivalent in Canada. Both the U.S. and Canadian federal agencies have established northwest regional marine mammal viewing guidelines to prevent the likelihood of harassment or injury, but at this time there are no laws regulating viewing.

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The Whale Museum’s Soundwatch Boater Education Program Transboundary Waters of Haro Strait

Since 1993, The Whale Museum has officially operated the Soundwatch Boater Education Program to promote stewardship of the marine wildlife inhabiting the waters of the transboundary area by residents, visitors and commercial users. The program focuses on the development, distribution and evaluation of best boating practices for marine wildlife viewing in the Puget Sound, Georgia and Juan de Fuca Straits.

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Soundwatch Best Practices for Viewing Marine Wildlife Transboundary Waters of Haro Strait

Each year since 1988, The Whale Museum has summarizes existing regional viewing guidelines and other relevant marine wildlife information into Voluntary Best Practices brochures, flyers and posters targeting private boaters and kayakers. Soundwatch then promotes the guidelines at regional presentations, posts them at local boating facilities and on the World Wide Web, and distributes them at The Whale Museum and on-the-water from the Soundwatch boater education vessel Raydiance. Soundwatch promotes community generated, voluntary guidelines that can be easily adapted and changed to best suit specific wildlife needs and that rely largely on public education, commercial buy-in and peer pressure to change behavior.

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The International Whale Watch Operators Association

Since it’s inception in 1994, the international Whale Watch Operators Association Northwest (WWOANW) has annually adopted a working set of international voluntary guidelines for commercial boat operators that are more explicit then those outlined by both the US and Canadian Federal governments. Soundwatch encourages the WWOANW to adopt an annual set of commercial guidelines to best meet changing marine wildlife needs. Incorporating suggestions from region NGO’s like Soundwatch, commercial drivers, residents and regional scientists, the WWOANW implements a new working set of guidelines each spring, and holds drivers meetings to interpret the changes for the commercial operators who ultimately are responsible for the behavior of the commercial vessel industry as a whole.

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Feedback and Evaluation of Commercial Operator Compliance Northwest

In addition to distributing best practices to private boaters,the Soundwatch boat daily monitors the commercial operators to make sure they are following their own guidelines. Perceived violations are recorded with the time, date, and location of the incident in a Soundwatch Incident Log. Twice monthly feedback reports are generated for each individual company showing any incidents documented by Soundwatch. Each company receives a report on their boat(s) and an overall industry summary by mail, fax or email. The reports are designed to be a tool for company owners and operators to improve or maintain best practices. The incident data is also used to evaluate the effectiveness of existing guidelines and to provide a basis for the development of new guidelines.

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Partnerships Northwest Across the Border: Soundwatch and the Marine Mammal Monitoring Group (M-3)

In 2001 Fisheries and Oceans Canada piloted the Marine Mammal Monitoring Project to assess vessel impacts on marine wildlife in southern British Columbia.Soundwatch and M-3 act as transboundary counter parts, working in tandem to increase the effectiveness of both team’s efforts.

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Be Whale Wise: Harmonized International Best Practices for Viewing Marine Wildlife in the Haro Strait Region

M-3 and Soundwatch worked in close collaboration with both the US and Canadian governments, The Whale Watch Operators Association Northwest and other regional stakeholders to develop a single set of voluntary best practices to be printed in an international wildlife viewing brochure entitled Be Whale Wise. In 2002, both governments and The Whale Watch Operators Northwest adopted Be Whale Wise as the general code of conduct for viewing marine wildlife in the transboundary region. Any special local conditions warranting more specific guidelines are presented by separate flyers that accompany the Be Whale Wise brochure.

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Be Whale Wise: Guidelines For Watching Marine Wildlife Viewing Marine Wildlife in the Haro Strait Region