Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve Superintendent Susan L. Boudreau has lifted the 10 knot speed limit for cruise ships in current “whale waters.”
According to a Park statement, changes in humpback whale numbers and distribution in lower Glacier Bay support this decision. For cruise ships and all other vessels, the 13 knot speed limit and course restrictions already in place will continue to be in effect. Speed and course restrictions are intended to reduce the disruption of feeding humpback whales and to lower the risk of whale/vessel collisions.
Even in areas where no specific vessel speed limit has been designated, NOAA regulations implemented throughout Alaska in 2001 require that “vessels operate at a slow, safe speed when near a humpback whale.”
In addition, while in all Glacier Bay National Park waters, vessels are prohibited from operating within ¼ nautical mile of a humpback whale. In Park waters, the operator of a vessel inadvertently positioned within ¼ nautical mile of a humpback whale must immediately slow the vessel to 10 knots or less, without shifting into reverse unless impact is likely. The operator must direct or maintain the vessel on as steady a course as possible away from the whale until at least ¼ nautical mile of separation is established. Whale waters restrictions are authorized in Glacier Bay National Park by Title 36 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Subpart N, 13.1174.
Current whale waters areas begin at the Park boundary in Icy Strait, and extend through the Lower Bay to an imaginary line between Netland Island, Willoughby Island, and continuing due east of Boulder Island to the Beardslee Islands motorless waters boundary. Vessels greater than 18 feet in length are restricted to a mid-channel course or one nautical mile offshore in the Lower Bay designated whale waters only.