In Olympia, state lawmakers are considering stronger protections for the critically endangered population of resident killer whales.
A proposal to require boaters to slow down to no more than seven knots within 400 yards of orcas drew universal praise during an initial public hearing Tuesday.
Democratic Sen. Kevin Ranker, the bill’s prime sponsor, said slower boats equal quieter boats.
“We know conclusively now — and we didn’t 10 years ago — that noise pollution has an incredible impact on these whales,” Ranker said. “These whales communicate and hunt through echolocation and other forms of basically, sonar. When vessels are going by they create a tremendous amount of noise which causes increased stress for these animals and also makes them have a far more difficult time hunting for salmon.”
Ranker’s proposal would also forbid recreational aircraft and drones from approaching closer than 200 yards to an endangered orca. That’s the same standoff distance required of whale watching boats.
The state Senate bill also proposes to increase spending on marine patrols to enforce the distance and speed limits.