Posted by: The ocean update | November 13, 2015

Whale Watchers Urged : Keep Distance (North Carolina, USA)

A humpback whale is shown feeding on menhaden off Cape Lookout in an image captured with a telephoto lens. Photo : Brian Horsley

A humpback whale is shown feeding on menhaden off Cape Lookout in an image captured with a telephoto lens. Photo : Brian Horsley

November 13th, 2015. National Marine Fisheries Service officials are reminding whale watchers to keep a safe distance.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Fisheries Service recently posted an online video about federal marine mammal harassment regulations and the required 100-yard safe distance.

“It’s actually a federal crime to take or to harass, to harm or to hunt a marine mammal,” Justin Hanacek of the NMFS law enforcement office says in the video.

Harassment means any act of pursuit, torment or annoyance that has the potential to injure a marine mammal in the wild  or that has the potential to disturb a marine mammal in the wild. NOAA Fisheries is responsible for the stewardship of the nation’s ocean resources and their habitat. Whales, dolphins and other species are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972.

Recent photos and videos posted on news and social media sites show close encounters with whales off the N.C. coast, including Bogue Banks and Shackleford Banks. The NOAA video wasn’t intended to address those encounters specifically, said Allyson Rogers, a spokesman for NOAA Fisheries in Silver Spring, Md.

“It’s not in direct response to any ongoing investigation,” Rogers said. She said the video is more a “friendly reminder” for those on the water during the current season of whale migration.

“We’ve seen the photos, too,” Rogers said. “As of right now we just want to make sure since that migration is happening we want people to be vigilant and keep their eyes open.”

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