Be Whale Wise

Magnificent orca (or killer) whales can be seen in the Salish Sea around the San Juan Islands year-round, as well as humpback and minke whales, Dall's porpoise, Steller sea lions, and harbor seals. Spotting these animals in the wild is a sensational experience. In our enthusiasm, it's easy to forget that our presence has an effect on wildlife. Like us, marine mammals need space to find food, choose mates, raise babies, socialize, and rest. When we get too close, approach too fast, or make too much noise, we may be disrupting these activities and causing the animals unnecessary stress. Set an example for others, and help protect our spectacular marine wildlife.

1. Be Cautious, Courteous and Quiet when around areas of known or suspected marine wildlife activity, in the water or at haul-outs and bird colonies on land; especially in May to September during breeding, nesting and seal pupping seasons.

2. Look in all directions before planning your approach or departure from viewing wildlife.

3. Always approach and depart from the side, moving parallel to the animal's direction of travel. If the animal(s) are approaching you, cautiously move out of the way and avoid abrupt course changes. Do Not Approach from the front or from behind.

4. Place Engine in Neutral and allow animals to pass if your vessel is not in compliance with the approach regulation or guideline (#1).

5. Pay Attention and move away, slowly and cautiously, at the first sign of disturbance of agitation.

6. Stay on the Offshore side of whales when they are traveling close to shore.

7. Always avoid going through groups of porpoises or dolphins and hold course and reduce speed gradually to discourage bow or stern-riding.

8. Limit your viewing time to 30 minutes or less. This will reduce the cumulative impact of all vessels and give consideration to other viewers.

9. Do Not Disturb, swim with, move, feed or touch any marine wildlife. If you are concerned about a potentially sick, stranded or entangled animal, call the Marine Mammal Stranding Network at 1 (800) 562-8832 or email

10. Turn off fish finders and depth sounders if safe to do so.

11. Use Whale Warning Flag to warn fellow boaters to the presence of whales.

How You Can Help The Southern Resident Orcas

There are a lot of actions we can take in our day-to-day lives.

Start Here!
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San Juan Islands Visitors Bureau
1-888-468-3701 | (360) 378-9551
P.O. Box 1330, Friday Harbor, Washington 98250
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