Marine mammal observation guidelines

Several guidelines allow viewing of marine mammals in their natural habitat without causing disturbance and human intervention. 

1. Approach distances for whales and dolphins. Keeping a safe distance lowers the risk of disturbing marine mammals (later denoted as MM). The approach distances apply to rowboats, motorboats, watercrafts, jet skis, airplanes, helicopters and swimmers. The approach distances are divided into two zones: a caution zone and a no-go zone.
1.1. Caution zone – an area around MM, where boats are not allowed to exceed the speed of six knots. The caution zone for whales is 300 m (990 ft), for orcas – 150 m (495 ft). 
1.2. No-go zone – an area around MM, which boats are not allowed to enter. The no-go zones are areas in close proximity of an animal and areas in front and behind the animal. For whales, it is 100 m (330 ft) around and 300 m (990 ft) in front and behind the animal. For orcas, it is 50 m (165 ft) around and 150 m (495 ft) in front and behind the animal.  

2. «The 3 boat rule». A boat must not enter the caution zone if there are already three boats there. If there are boats waiting to enter the caution zone, the boats in the zone must «share the water» by exiting the zone after being done with observing the whale or orca. 

3. When a marine mammal approaches the boat. If a whale approaches the boat and enters the caution zone, the boat must reduce its speed to at least 6 knots. If a whale enters a no-go zone when approaching the boat, the boat driver must turn off the motor, disable transmission or exit the no-go zone at a speed below six knots. If an orca approaches the boat and enters a caution or no-go zone, the boat may continue moving as long as it changes speed and direction slowly and without disturbing the orca. The boat may slow down or stop to observe the orca as long as this does not disturb the animal.  

4. Anxiety of marine mammals. If you notice signs of MM being anxious (for example, aggressive behavior, changes in breathing pattern, speed or trajectory), the boat must leave the caution area at a speed that does not exceed six knots. 

5. Special cases, when different approach distances apply. Special cases apply to the following vehicles:  
5.1. Jet skis and hovercrafts: no closer than 300 m (990 ft) from a whale or a dolphin. 
5.2. Humans: no closer than 100 m from a whale and 50 m from an orca.  
5.3. Airplanes: no closer than 500 m (1650 ft) from a whale or an orca.  
5.4. Helicopter: no closer than 500 m (1650 ft) from a whale or an orca. It is strictly forbidden to hover over MM. 
5.5. Boats must not be closer than 300 m (990 ft) from a large whale calf or no closer than 150 m (495 ft) from a baby orca. If a baby appears, when the boat is in the no-go zone, the boat driver must stop the boat, turn off the motor and wait for the baby to swim away past the safe distance from the boat. 

6. General rules for being near marine mammals: 
6.1. Never block the path of MM and do not force it to change direction. 
6.2. Never enter an area where a group of MM is located, forcing them to split into smaller groups. 
6.3. Never separate a female from a baby. 
6.4. Do not produce loud or sudden noises in proximity of MM and do not try to touch or feed them. 
6.5. Report any sick, wounded or dead MM by contacting the officials at Kronotsky Nature Reserve.