Keeping Whales, Sea Lions, and People Safe
By Jon Kurland
August 29, 2013
Living in the middle of wildlife habitat as we do in Alaska comes with responsibility—the responsibility for each of us to dwell among these special creatures in a manner that minimizes harmful encounters between humans and wildlife, and to educate others on how to do that as well.
This is especially true when it comes to marine mammals like whales and sea lions. All marine mammals are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, and any species on the list of threatened or endangered species is additionally protected under the Endangered Species Act. When it comes to encounters with marine mammals, not only could you be placing yourself and others in danger, you could be breaking the law as well—and that could result in a fine.
Several recent incidents in Southeast Alaska waters suggest that a reminder is in order to help keep marine mammals and people safe from one another. Unfortunately, NOAA Fisheries has received reports this summer of commercial and recreational boats crowding whales, people feeding sea lions, and even a report of people intentionally approaching feeding whales on stand-up paddleboards. Such behavior can be extremely dangerous for humans and marine mammals alike.
We at NOAA Fisheries Alaska Region encourage you to observe our marine mammal viewing Code of Conduct for your own well-being, and for that of marine mammals:
If you see a marine mammal in distress, don’t try to help the animal on your own. Instead, immediately report the injured or entangled animal by calling NOAA’s Alaska Marine Mammal Stranding Hotline at 1-877-925-7773, NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement 24-hour hotline at 1-800-853-1964, or the U.S. Coast Guard on VHF Channel 16. By law, only trained responders are authorized to assist marine mammals in distress, and they have specialized tools for doing so.
Put simply, if you cause a marine mammal to change its natural behavior, you may be violating federal law. Please, for your own safety, the safety of others, and the health of marine mammals, act responsibly when viewing Alaska’s wild marine mammals.
For more information, visit http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov/protectedresources/mmv/guide.htm
About: "Jon Kurland is the Assistant Regional Administrator for the Protected Resources Division of NOAA Fisheries Alaska Region, which works to protect the viability of protected species—primarily marine mammals. He lives in Juneau."
Received August 29, 2013 - Published August 29, 2013
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