Since the mid 20th century, whale watches have been conducted as an organized activity. Much more recently, guidelines have been outlined and updated regularly to reflect research so that the whales' safety and the protection of their ecosystem can be maintained. When companies carry boats of tourists to feeding grounds during whale watching season, they must follow operational guidelines when they sight whales and strict procedures upon approaching cetaceans.
Capt. Bill and Sons operates within these guidelines and responds to any updates we're privy to because of our close working ties with The Whale Center of New England. What are some guidelines followed, whether or not it's whale watching season? One rule has to do with speed reduction. When we spot any whale, we reduce our speed as directed. The closer we are to a whale, the more slowly we must proceed. Interestingly, these guidelines also apply to aircraft, which must fly no lower than 1,000 feet above a sighted whale. Read on for more about these and other important whale watch rules.
Zones of approach are detailed in the guidelines we follow to protect whales. "Stand-by Zone" refers to an approach that is between 300 and 600 feet from a whale. Those on whale watching holidays with Capt. Bill and Sons may find themselves on the Miss Cape Ann when a whale is spotted. If the whale is directly ahead, the boat may not approach the whale head on. Every effort is made to keep behind or to the side of a whale in the Stand-by Zone and no more than two vessels can occupy this zone at any given time. The objective is to stay a respectful distance from the whale while avoiding possibly blocking its path. In the "Close Approach Zone," or between 100 and 300 feet from a whale, only one vessel is permitted. The other vessel must wait until the first has moved away before entering this zone.
Finally, you may be on board when a whale comes very close to the Miss Cape Ann. You may notice that we've stopped and the engine sounds have changed. When guests on whale watching holidays are lucky enough to get closer than 100 feet from a whale, the Captain must follow protocol to help keep the mammal safe. First, he must put the engine in neutral and, second, he mustn't move the vessel in any way until the whale has moved off, safely away.
Read more: Whale Watching Cruises