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Whale Watching Tips For Boaters

The waters off Cape Cod are known for being among the best places in the world for whale watching. That includes Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, located off the northern tip of Cape Cod, at the mouth of Massachusetts Bay. The sanctuary is famous for producing consistent sightings and active whale behavior. If you own a boat, you can do your own whale watching cruise. Here are a few whale watching tips to consider that will help keep both you and the whales safe.

  • The moment you spot a whale in the distance, slow down and have someone look for animals near your boat. Whales can dive for more than 20 minutes, and if there’s one in the distance, there may be more near your boat.
  • Proceed slowly and never get in front of a whale and cut off its path. Strict rules govern the speed and behavior of boats around whales, and it is illegal to harass whales – even unintentionally – in a way that disturbs their behavior. There are also strict speed limits depending on how close you are to a whale. Penalties can include imprisonment and fines of up to $20,000.
  • If other boats are around, you need to communicate with each other on VHF channels 9 or 16. Only one vessel at a time should be within 300 feet of a whale, and if other boats are around, that boat is supposed to limit its time to 15 minutes.
  • Never approach within 100 feet of a whale. If a whale approaches your vessel, make sure your boat’s engine is in neutral to avoid harming the whale.
  • Watch out for bubble clouds. Whales will sometimes blow bubbles to confuse schools of small fish. Never go near a bubble cloud, as a feeding whale is likely just beneath it.
  • Even though seeing a whale is exciting, be sure to keep your distance. If you try to approach a whale too closely, you can cause it to move away from its food source.

Click here for more information on whale watching rules.

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