SEATTLE—Starting Monday, boats in the Puget Sound will need to stay at least 200 yards from whales. The new rules, designed to better protect whales, doubles the previous buffer zone of 100 yards.
The National Marine Fisheries Service said the new regulations will help shield whales not only from physical contact with boats, but also from the loud underwater noises they produce.
The Orcas depend on their natural sonar to navigate in the water and find food. Research determined that underwater noise from boats negatively impacted the whale's ability to rely on their sonar.
"The sound of motorized vessels interferes with the whales’ natural sonar system and the mere presence of any type of boats can interfere with their behavior," said Brian Gorman of the National Marine Fisheries Service. "We want to do everything we can to try to make life easier for these killer whales."
Increased boat traffic is blamed for the decline in whale population in the Puget Sound.
The killer whales were added to the endangered species list in 2005. It is estimated there are currently 86 Orcas in the Puget Sound area; the peak population was 97 in the 1990s.