A new law designed to protect Orcas goes into effect Thursday (June 12). The new legislation prohibits boats and vessels from coming within 300 feet of an orca whale.
State Representative Dave Quall modeled the bill after an ordinance passed by San Juan County in 2007 and says the timing is a perfect way to highlight Orca Awareness Month, which Governor Chris Gregoire proclaimed last year.
HB 2514 creates a 300-foot protection zone around orcas and prohibits vessels from remaining in the path of an orca, failing to yield to an orca and feeding an orca.
“Most boaters are very responsible, but we needed to make sure there was a way to protect these beautiful animals from the few bad actors,” said Quall. “We now have the tool to do that.”
Puget Sound’s orcas are considered endangered and their numbers have been declining due to shrinking salmon runs, pollution, boat traffic and more. It’s why numerous local groups have spent years pushing for legislation to protect the animals from reckless boaters.
“These creatures are living and playing essentially in our backyards. They’re amazing,” says Quall. “But they’re also vulnerable and need our help. I encourage people to learn more about the actions we can all take to protect these animals."