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Virginia Beach Whale Watching Guidelines

Published: March 23, 2012
More than 50 separate whales have been spotted near Virginia Beach since December, as many as 20 in one day. In response to the unusual level of activity, NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement recently released an announcement reminding boaters to give whales sufficient space.

According to NOAA, whales should be viewed from a safe distance of at least 100 feet. For endangered North Atlantic right whales, the agency specifies 500 feet as the minimum distance.

According to NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement, all whales are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Humpback whales, fin whales and the North Atlantic right whale, also are protected under the Endangered Species Act."

The MMPA and ESA prohibit, with certain exceptions, the "take" of marine mammals in waters or on lands under the jurisdiction of the United States. Both laws define "take" as "harass, hunt,capture, kill or collect" or the attempt to do so. According to NOAA OLE, seemingly harmless behavior such as feeding, swimming with, or touching marine mammals is considered harassment and is unlawful.

For more information on responsible marine wildlife viewing, see:
http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/pdfs/education/viewing_wildlife.pdf
http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/pdfs/education/viewing_northeast.pdf
http://www.nero.noaa.gov/prot_res/mmv/approach.html
http://www.nero.noaa.gov/prot_res/mmv/

source: NOAA Office of Law Enforcement