Recently, while treating two guests to the enjoyment of whale watching, I made a serious mistake.
While taking my friends out in my skiff for some photo opportunities, we got caught up in the enjoyment of the moment, and I repeatedly maneuvered my skiff within 100 yards of a group of humpback whales.
Upon our return to the dock, we were met by National Marine Fisheries Service enforcement personnel who had observed our actions. I was asked if I knew that it was illegal to allow a vessel to approach within 100 yards of a humpback whale. I did not know that. Nevertheless, because this is a strict liability regulation, even though my actions were not intended to violate the law or endanger the whales, I now have to pay a costly fine.
I am writing this letter to warn other not to repeat my costly and regretful actions.
Taking my boat within 100 yards of the humpbacks violated the federal approach prohibition that prohibits "approach by any means within 100 yards of any humpback whale (including placing a vessel in the path of an oncoming humpback whale so that the whale surfaces within 100 yards of the vessel)."
This prohibition is applicable to all vessel operators, commercial or private, and is applicable in all U.S. waters. It is designed to protect the spatial environment of these whales. By respecting this 100-yard approach prohibition, humpbacks have the space they need to exist, feed, play, etc. It prevents whale-watchers from accidentally contacting and potentially harming a whale with their vessel.
By respecting this prohibition, we are doing our small part to protect the continued existence of these whales and our continued enjoyment of seeing them. Moreover, this prohibition has a secondary protection. It protects people like me and my friends, in a small vessel, from being in an accident with these immensely large creatures that could leave us in the water - a potentially deadly result for human whale-watchers.
In the future, I will certainly ensure my boat does not approach within 100 yards of any humpbacks. I hope those reading this letter will learn from my mistake so their summer memories of whale-watching won't go from incredible to incredibly regretful.
Anthony B. DeLong
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