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August 15, 2012 at 11:01 PM

Coast Guard: Boater may face fine for entering protected killer-whale zone

Fines could be imposed on the owner of a vessel that breached the 200-yard exclusion zone for endangered killer whales near Orcas Island on Wednesday.

The Coast Guard says a witness reported a 25-foot leisure boat inside the exclusion zone around a group of orcas at about 5 p.m. The crew of Coast Guard ‘s Cuttyhunk found the boat still in the exclusion zone when it arrived 20 minutes later.

After the Coast Guard told the boater to leave the area, they notified the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which may impose a fine, according to a release from the Coast Guard. They did not say how high the fine could be.

NOAA has enforced regulations for protecting killer whale waters since May 2011 because, according to the agency’s website, they “identified vessel effects, including physical interference and sound, as a potential contributing factor in the population’s decline.”

Researchers have since cited other possible causes for the species’ decline, including a lack of food, but the regulations against disturbing protected zones have not changed.

San Juan County and Washington state can also impose fines for entering the protected waters.

Comments | Topics: Coast Guard, killer whales, NOAA

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