More humpback whales and their calves are showing up in the waters of Glacier Bay National Park, and that has prompted park officials to extend speed restrictions on vessels cruising through those waters.
Glacier Bay Superintendent Cherry Payne says the special whale waters area in park waters just outside the mouth of Glacier Bay that was implemented on May 15th is being extended westward to Point Dundas to protect numerous humpback whales that have been sighted in the area. During the past week at least four mother/calf pairs and 15 other humpback whales have been observed in this area.
An increase in humpback whale sightings in mid-channel and along shore at the entrance to the West Arm has made it necessary to implement a vessel speed limit in that area as well All motor vessels passing through these areas are restricted to a speed limit of 13 knots through the water until further notice.
As the accompanying map shows, the revised whale waters area at the entrance to Glacier Bay is bounded on the north by an imaginary line between Point Carolus and Point Gustavus, and on the south by the park boundary in Icy Strait. The eastern boundary is an imaginary line running due south from Point Gustavus to the Park boundary, and the western boundary is an imaginary line running due south to the Park boundary from Point Dundas.
Also shown on the map is the new whale waters area at the mouth of the West Arm, bounded on the north by an imaginary line from the northern point at the mouth of Blue Mouse Cove to the northern point at the mouth of Tidal Inlet. The southern boundary is defined by an imaginary line from Tlingit Point to the southern point of land at the mouth of Geikie Inlet. The eastern and western shorelines of the West Arm form the eastern and western boundaries of the area.
Boaters should proceed cautiously in all areas where whales are present because whales may surface in unexpected locations, posing a hazard to both the vessel and the whale. Although humpback whales tend to be distributed along the shoreline, boaters should note that whales frequently cross mid-channel as they move between feeding sites.
Boaters are reminded that vessels are prohibited from operating within one-quarter nautical mile of a humpback whale in all park waters, including those park waters outside Glacier Bay proper. In addition, vessel operators positioned within one-half nautical mile of a humpback whale are prohibited from altering their course or speed in a manner that results in decreasing the distance between the whale and the vessel. Speed and course restrictions in whale waters are intended to reduce the disruption of feeding humpback whales and to lower the risk of whale/vessel collisions.
Boaters are advised to verify whale waters designations prior to entering Glacier Bay by telephoning (907) 697-2627 or by contacting KWM20 Bartlett Cove on marine VHF radio.
Whale waters restrictions are authorized in Glacier Bay National Park in accordance with Title 36 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Subpart N, 13.1174.