Your Comments Needed on Proposed NOAA Closure Restrictions

On July 28, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced proposed regulations intended to protect southern resident, ESA-listed killer whales in Puget Sound. The proposed regulations would among other things set up a half-mile wide seasonal “No-Go Zone” along the west side of San Juan Island where several types of vessels, including recreational anglers, would be arbitrarily prohibited from entering while others would be exempted from the closure.

Following NOAA’s release of the proposal CCA Washington alerted its Puget Sound area members of the issue and contacted NOAA to request an extension of the public comment period and the addition of another public meeting. NOAA ultimately added another public meeting in Anacortes (in addition to those previously announced for Seattle and Friday Harbor) and extended the comment period deadline to January 15, 2010. Over the past several months the North Sound chapter has actively encouraged concerned CCA members to attend the public meetings, prepared comments, reviewed NOAA’s proposal and coordinated with other like-minded organizations.

The Issue
CCA Washington recognizes and supports the need to preserve and protect ESA listed killer whales in Puget Sound. However, proposed conservation measures should be firmly based in science and the burden of those measures should be uniformly applied.
Based upon a review of the information provided by NOAA, including the Draft Environmental Assessment, comments at public meetings, and in meetings with WDFW and other concerned organizations, CCA Washington will formally submit the following alternatives and comments to the proposed regulations prior to the January 15th public comment deadline. We have also provided a sample comment letter for your use in contacting NOAA to express your concerns with the current proposal. You are encouraged to submit comments to NOAA through CCA’s website by clicking on the link at the bottom of this message. Please consider customizing the sample comments by expressing why this issue is important to you.

Regulation Alternative Suggestions:
1. The seasonal half mile proposed No-Go Zone should instead be a seasonal half mile Go-Slow Zone where vessels would be restricted to a 7 knot speed in the area during the seasonal restriction.

2. Instead of creating a new 200-yard approach regulation, NOAA should first rely upon the current 100-yard approach regulation which is consistent with the Revised Code of Washington 77.15.740 and US/Canada regional unified guidelines. If the current 100-yard approach regulation is shown to be inadequate through demonstrable scientific monitoring and research, NOAA should consider working with state and Canadian officials on a coordinated 200-yard approach regulation to avoid inconsistencies with current state law and Canadian regulations.

3. We believe there is adequate support and need for the proposed restriction prohibiting vessels parking within 400 yards in the whale’s path;

4. Increased efforts by NOAA to improve public awareness, educational efforts and outreach;

5. Develop a proactive plan for implementation, effectiveness monitoring and enforcement of rules working jointly with WDFW and San Juan County. Federal funding should be provided to the local and state agencies that will ultimately be responsible for enforcement, monitoring and education.

Comments on the NOAA Proposal:
1. The Draft Environmental Assessment and observation groups have specifically stated that “fishing vessels make up a very small percentage of vessels within ½ mile of the whales” and there is “a low likelihood of fishing vessels affecting whales”. No specific scientific research has been presented indicating that recreational fishing vessels are having an impact on orca populations and should be excluded from the proposed No-Go zone.

2. Of the three pods that comprise the Southern Resident Orca Whale population, the J pod spends the most time in the proposed No-Go zone. The data and the Draft Environmental Assessment suggests that the J-pod population numbers have actually seen marked increases since extensive surveys began in 1974. The J-pod’s growth percentage since 1974 is well above that experienced by the other two pods, which spend less time in the proposed No Go zone. This raises additional questions about the basis in science for the proposed No Go zone.

3. NMFS considered five specific categories of vessels to be exempted from the No-Go zone regulations, including certain commercial fishing vessels actively engaged in fishing, yet provided no clear scientific rationale for this exemption or why recreational fishing vessels were not afforded a similar exemption.

4. The analysis of the recreational fishery in Puget Sound and the economic impacts the proposed regulations would have on recreational fishing is inadequate. The Draft Environmental Assessment conservatively valued the economic benefit of Puget Sound recreational angling at $57 million a year annually. This estimate is far lower than a December 2008 report prepared for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife by TCW. That report estimated that recreational fisheries generated $424 million in net economic benefit annually to the state of Washington. While the WDFW estimate included areas outside of Puget Sound and recreational economic numbers can be difficult to determine, the impacts of a half mile no-go zone to the recreational fishing industry would be devastating and far greater than those presented in the Draft Environmental Assessment. NOAA should prepare a new economic analysis that better reflects the value of recreational angling in Puget Sound.

5. A substantial portion of the research used in the proposal is dated e.g. 1980’s and the primary focus of those studies is on other marine mammals and not killer whales. Meanwhile, the more current research relied upon in the Draft Environmental Assessment related to vessel interactions focuses predominately on whale watching activities, and presents no data on noise levels and impacts of recreational angler vessels.

Coastal Conservation Association's position on Marine Protected Areas and No Fishing Zones can be found at

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Bob Triggs

Stop Killing Wild Steelhead!
Leopardbow- Would you please post the official NOAA Public Comment Link here as well. You left it out over on the other boards too.


Active Member
NMFS has never enforced the laws it is charged with dealing with. NMFS has never taken a look at sustainablity of marine stocks until forces into a corner. this is a reaction on their part to appear to be doing something about a pretty real problem. the issue is, however, where is the next meal coiming from for these orca? address salmon stocks? give me a break this is the NMFS here, same group that is not enforcing the law with regard to ESA listed anadramous fishes in our area.

that said, it would appear that as our oceans warm, sound travels further and at greater volume. what impact this may have on ecoloating critters is not clear. the bottom line for me is banning all vessel traffic, no exceptions for inddan or non-indian commercial fishing or whale chasing boats, is not a harmfull intervention in the long run. singling out the recreational boating sector smacks of picking and easy target to be able to claim responsible action, this stinks.
I think we have at least pointed out to them that their science or lack there of and the huge economic impacts were overlooked and/or not addressed in their analysis.


Active Member
well i guess we could kick back, start a 10 or 20 year study to see if we can generate any 'science' regarding effects of vessel noise on eco location OR we could make a reasonable assumption that vessel noise could be a significant factor, set up an exclusive MPA, fund a 10 or 20 study and once the results are in either remove the MPA or make it permanent. erring on the conservative side may be foreign to 'our' thinking with regard to marine dwellers, but maybe its about time to start thinking along these lines.

banning commercial fishing and enforcing a 200yd approach limit while keeping ALLvessel traffic out of the area may create some hardship but it, i don't believe, is a 'huge economic impact'.
Other charter owners, kayak tours, and all the others that attending the meetings might completely disagree with you on the econcomic impacts on the area. The point is, NOAA has no idea what the impacts are and their analysis, done by a CT firm was beyond off comparitive to a similar analysis done for the WDFW.

I agree, erring on the side of conservation is good, but again they had no scientific proof and stated equivocably that fishing vessels have relatively no impact on whales. Regardless, tribal fishing vessels are allowed in the zone.


Active Member
please point the accusatory finger at NMFS, a division of NOAA. of course the small business owners are going to complain, whats new? but taking a conservative stance until 'science' produces evidence one way or the other seems a reasonable enough approach given the fragile nature of this specific species. and, we already know that military sonars are quite disruptive to eco locating species. i am sure my far lower powered boat sonar contributes noise as well.

as as i said ALL vessels need to be excluded. allowing some folks to fish while not allowing others simply does not solve the dinner problem for the orca's. time to take off the gloves, CCA, and address all resource extraction groups equally.

Kim Hampton

Not Politically Correct
NMFS has never enforced the laws it is charged with dealing with. NMFS has never taken a look at sustainablity of marine stocks until forces into a corner. this is a reaction on their part to appear to be doing something about a pretty real problem. the issue is, however, where is the next meal coiming from for these orca? address salmon stocks? give me a break this is the NMFS here, same group that is not enforcing the law with regard to ESA listed anadramous fishes in our area.
Huh? I wonder where you got this information?? As you probably realize from previous posts I'm involved in the Alaska ground fish fishery in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands. I'm also an avid fly fisherman. In the sector I work in (A80 ground fish) I'd say NMFS does enforce "strongly" and with a conservative method for the stocks. Here's a link for ya to read up on ( the time, a couple of weeks or so to read up on it and study all the regs, closed areas, reporting requirements, observer requirements, flow scale requirements etc. and then realize NMFS is very strict with all of these requirements. Very strict. I know when I get boarded by the CG on a fishery/safety check I'm nervous as hell. I not nervous because I'm trying to hide something I'm nervous because I'm afraid I've missed something in the regs. You almost have to have a law degree to fish and not be doing something wrong. So to me your statement is way off base and just an emotional bunch of BS that we have heard from you in the past such as your posts about the Coast Guard.

Now concerning closed no transit zones. NMFS has many of these in Alaska (Read the regs and look at the tables starting from the above link. Actually you have to read them several times to understand them and then read them again). 3 mile no transit zones, 10 mile no fishing zones etc, etc, gets quite confusing. Most of these zones are there on a conservative, maybe, we don't know but are taking a conservative approach type of regulation. IE we don't really know why Stellar Sea Lions are declining so we are going to throw all of these regs in just in case. This is what they will probably do down here for the Killer Whales...take a conservative approach and make a no transit if they operate as they do in Alaska the argument that the "Science" is just a maybe probably won't fly. If they don't...will then politics came into play which would be sad if their "Science" is correct. Personally I feel if they do make the no transit zone the zone should be for all craft. If the zone is there to protect the animals it should pertain to all vessels. Propeller noise is propeller noise regardless of the type of boat.


Active Member
NMFS has screwed folks on the east, gulf and west coasts with their lack of stock managment. the area you fish in AK sounds like they have done their ususal overboard job of closing areas instead of managing stocks for sustainable harvest. this is their established pattern of operation, wait until stocks appear on the brink, then throw the kitchen sink at a problem they have been ignoring for lengthy periods of time. i suggest, kim, you look beyond your own vested interests when you examine the job NMFS is doing for stock managment along all coasts of this country.

i must, however, agree that if a MPA is established along san juan island, it should apply with equality to all vessel traffic.


Sculpin Enterprises
This restriction appears to be NOAA attempting to show that it is doing something, when the things that are likely to be impacting these oversized dolphins are out of their reach.

Two pet peeves with this whole problem. Frankly, the designation of this population as endangered is &$*&%#(; it was rejected the first time and somehow was found to be worthy the second..... The historic numbers used to establish a baseline population are complicated by the crudeness of the counting methodology - using photographs to identify distinctive markings on the body to determine identity. At the time, there was no acknowledgment that the marine-mammal eating transient Orcas are likely a different SPECIES (different marking, ecology, behavior, and in a recent study from the North Atlantic - genetics) from the salmon-scarfing resident whales. Because the transients are known to have huge travel areas, their appearance inflated the number of Orcas in the "Salish Sea". By including transients in the baseline counts, this inflated number is the baseline from which the current populations are compared. Also, how can one measure population fluctuations from 40 years of data (max), for an animal that lives 50 - 60 years (males) or 70 - 80 years (females)?

Second, there is a huge black box - where/what are these whales doing when they leave Puget Sound in the winter and spring. They appear to head out of Puget Sound and then south; in previous years, they have been identified off the Farallon Islands in central California. For those of you keeping score, NOAA closed salmon fishing for the last two years in this area ("South of Falcon") because of the miserable survival of salmon in this area (Klamath two years ago, Sacramento this year). Hypotheses for the salmon collapse include excessive water diversions for agriculture and failure of primary production due to weak upwelling along the California coast. If winter food source is the critical factor, NOAA should be pressuring California, not Washington, to take steps to enhance the populations (if necessary) to sustain their populations.

Ah, the vagaries of a non-experimental science with a very large, highly migratory, long-lived species.