Through the Summer of 2011 I worked as Captain for Friday Harbor Whale Museum’s Soundwatch Boater Education Program. Our Southern Residents Orca whales have suffered tremendously with the population cut by one third during the capture for amusement parks era. High infant mortality, miscarriage and low life expectancy from the effects of pollution and collapse of salmon returns. Dangers inherent with the increasing fossil fuel export and the high noise level of cargo and tanker vessels all are putting the survival chances of Orca whales at a tipping point. Being on the endangered species list has meant new laws governing how boaters can avoid altering the behavior of whales.
On the water 10 hours a day learning how to position our boat to intervene, communicate and educate unsuspecting boaters approaching whales. Learning the waters, the likely path of the whales, respectful vs. belligerent behaviour around whales, the patterns of positioning of commercial whale watching boats and the positioning of the whales as they socialize, travel, rest and feed.
This experience adds to my understanding in watching whales without being obtrusive and causing disturbance. The more respectful boaters are towards whales, the higher the value of their experience. The more people know and understand about whales, the more they become involved in protecting the whales ability to survive.