Water Transportation Alternatives, Inc., the operator of the New England Aquarium Whale Watch, adheres to the "voluntary whale watching guidelines" recommended by the federal government. In order to avoid harassment and possible injury to whales, Voyager III adheres to the following voluntary speed guidelines when approaching and departing from whale locations:
- 13 knots (15 mph) when within 2 miles of a whale
- 10 knots (11.5 mph) when within 1 mile of a whale
- 7 knots (8 mph) when within 1/2 mile of a whale
In addition, it is policy and practice to:
- Post a dedicated lookout to assist the vessel operator in monitoring the location of all marine mammals.
- Maintain communication with other vessels in a multi-vessel approach.
- Never approach whales head on.
- Allow only one vessel at a time to be within 300 feet of a whale.
- Never intentionally come within 100 feet of a whale.
Marine mammal safety features on the Voyager III include:
- A water jet propulsion system that eliminates exposed propellers, rudders or any other appendages below the vessel hull.
- Water jet inlets that are covered with a grate system to prevent any outside contact with the internal propulsion machinery.
- An on-board trained and experienced Naturalist charged with advising the captain on matters regarding marine mammal safety including: identification, habits and movements.**
These guidelines and safety features were designed by whale researchers, whale watch experts and conservationists to give visitors a rewarding whale watch experience while avoiding the possibility of harassment or injury to large whales.
In addition to these voluntary guidelines, it is against federal law for any vessel to come within 500 feet of the endangered North Atlantic right whale.
** The naturalist maintains a log of whale sightings and locations as well as a photographic record on most sightings. These logs assist in predicting whale movements, which improves the chance of future sightings and helps the captain and naturalist are better able to anticipate when the vessel will be approaching the marine mammals.
View complete guidelines from the National Marine Fisheries Service (pdf).