Is Whale Watching Safe?

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Whale watching is one of the most popular leisure activities for tourists and locals alike, generating over 2 billion dollars a year worldwide. The whale watching industry is massive with more than 3,000 whale watching businesses around the world and employing more than 13,000 people.

Because there are so many people around the world that are fascinated by these marine giants and want an up close and personal experience with them in their natural habitat, there are very strict guidelines every whale watching company follows to ensure it is absolutely safe for passengers and whales as well.

Is Whale Watching Safe for Whales?

The popularity of whaling over the past couple centuries has caused many species of whales to become critically endangered. By the late 1930s, more than 50,000 whales were killed every single year. It wasn’t until 1986, when the International Whaling Commission (IWC) banned commercial whaling completely due to the extreme depletion of large whale stocks.

Although whaling has ended, whales still face modern-day threats, most commonly in the form of large vessel strikes. For that reason, many laws have been passed to protect whales from ships on the ocean to ensure they are completely safe and unbothered in their natural habitat. Below are rules every whale watching company follows to protect whales when navigation near them.

1. Keep Distance

It’s always important to be cautious when navigating the waters where whales are present. Look for pods of whales before entering and exiting the area. If there is a pod present, watch for changes in their behavior that could indicate signs of stress. Distress could be in the form of a rapid change in swimming pattern, tail slapping, or mothers shielding their calves. If any of these behaviors present, it’s important to leave the area immediately.

2. Move Slowly

Whales are curious and intelligent creatures. Whales have been known to approach vessels to investigate who is in their home, so it’s always best to keep a good distance away from them. Ships are always required to keep a distance of about 100 yards (though this can vary by law depending on the region). If your ship is beginning to near a whale, stop immediately and maneuver out of the area. If you’re in a power boat, just keep the engine running and stay in neutral gear until the whale completely passes.

3. Always Approach from the Side

It’s always best to approach whales from the side, keeping your distance while staying parallel to their swimming direction. It’s important to stay out of their path and to never cut them off. Disturbing their swimming patterns can add a lot of stress for the whales and potentially confuse them on their navigation route.

4. Watch for only a Limited Amount of Time

It’s always so exciting spotting a whale at sea, and it will be tempting to watch these majestic creatures for as long as possible. But the act of whale watching for too long can be really distracting to the whales. It’s only recommended to view the whales for 15-30 minutes (maximum). The presence and sound of the ship can potentially prevent them from looking for food, socializing or even breeding. Noise pollution may even cause some whales to change their migration routes.

5. Do Not Swim, Touch, or Feed Whales

Absolutely never swim with whales, feed them or touch them. Not only is this bad for the whale, it’s very dangerous as well. Touching them can transmit harmful diseases, while feeding them could make them sick or dependent on humans for food. Plus, the more comfortable they are with ships, the more likely whales are to getting close to one and getting hit.

Whale Watching with Harbor Breeze

At Harbor Breeze, our #1 priority on each and every excursion is safety – not only for our passengers, but for the whales as well. Our experienced captains navigate the ocean waters with extreme caution so as not to disturb these wonderful creatures in their own habitat. For more information on our whale watching cruises in Long Beach and Los Angeles, contact us today and book a trip that the entire family will remember for years to come.  

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