NOAA Reminds Fishermen and Boats to Stay Away from Whales

COURTESY OF NOAA A humpback whale in a bubble curtain.

A humpback whale in a bubble curtain.

BARNSTABLE – This weekend will see the waters full of boaters and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries is reminding the public to keep a safe distance from whales.

Whales can get hooked in tuna rigs or tangled in monofilament line and NOAA recommends all boats stay at least 100 feet from whales. Federal law requires a 500 foot buffer for endangered North Atlantic right whales.

In recent years, there has been an increase in the number of reports of tuna fisherman trolling their gear too close to humpback whales which can cause injury to both the whales and people, according to NOAA.

Humpback whales create a bubble cloud to corral their prey and lunge through the center to swallow the small fish, which can bring the whales close to the surface.

Fishermen or recreational boaters in these bubble patches run the risk of colliding with a humpback which can weight around 79,000 pounds.

Whales can be killed or suffer major injuries from collisions and people have been known to be thrown from boats causing injuries or even death.

Just being close to a whale may cause the marine mammal to stop feeding.

All whales in U.S. waters are protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act and it is illegal to harm, injure, kill, chase or harass whales or other marine mammals.

Penalties for violating the act include fines up to $20,000 and up to a year in prison.

North Atlantic right whales, humpback whales and fin whales are protected under the Endangered Species Act.
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