Under this Washington statute, it is unlawful to feed, intercept, or approach within three hundred feet of a southern resident orca whale, with exceptions. A violation is a natural resource infraction and carries a fine of five hundred dollars, not including statutory assessments added pursuant to RCW 3.62.090.
(1) Except as provided in subsection (2) of this section, it is unlawful to:
(a) Cause a vessel or other object to approach, in any manner, within two hundred yards of a southern resident orca whale;
(b) Position a vessel to be in the path of a southern resident orca whale at any point located within four hundred yards of the whale. This includes intercepting a southern resident orca whale by positioning a vessel so that the prevailing wind or water current carries the vessel into the path of the whale at any point located within four hundred yards of the whale;
(c) Fail to disengage the transmission of a vessel that is within two hundred yards of a southern resident orca whale; or
(d) Feed a southern resident orca whale.
(2) A person is exempt from subsection (1) of this section if that person is:
(a) Operating a federal government vessel in the course of his or her official duties, or operating a state, tribal, or local government vessel when engaged in official duties involving law enforcement, search and rescue, or public safety;
(b) Operating a vessel in conjunction with a vessel traffic service established under 33 C.F.R. and following a traffic separation scheme, or complying with a vessel traffic service measure of direction. This also includes support vessels escorting ships in the traffic lanes, such as tug boats;
(c) Engaging in an activity, including scientific research, pursuant to a permit or other authorization from the national marine fisheries service and the department;
(d) Lawfully engaging in a treaty Indian or commercial fishery that is actively setting, retrieving, or closely tending fishing gear;
(e) Conducting vessel operations necessary to avoid an imminent and serious threat to a person, vessel, or the environment, including when necessary for overall safety of navigation and to comply with state and federal navigation requirements; or
(f) Engaging in rescue or clean-up efforts of a beached southern resident orca whale overseen, coordinated, or authorized by a volunteer stranding network.
(3) For the purpose of this section, “vessel” includes aircraft while on the surface of the water, and every description of watercraft on the water that is used or capable of being used as a means of transportation on the water. However, “vessel” does not include inner tubes, air mattresses, sailboards, and small rafts, or flotation devices or toys customarily used by swimmers.
(4)(a) A violation of this section is a natural resource infraction punishable under chapter 7.84 RCW and carries a fine of five hundred dollars, not including statutory assessments added pursuant to RCW 3.62.090.
(b) A person who qualifies for an exemption under subsection (2) of this section may offer that exemption as an affirmative defense, which that person must prove by a preponderance of the evidence.
[2014 c 48 § 22, eff. June 12, 2014; 2012 c 176 § 37, eff. June 7, 2012; 2008 c 225 § 2, eff. June 12, 2008.]