James Maya, a ship captain and owner of a whale watching company, took these photos of an orca breaching on Monday off South Beach on San Juan Island.
He said this was the only whale breach that evening and he just happened to have his camera at the ready. These breaches are not uncommon, he added.
“Sometimes they just go crazy,” he said.
Protection of the whales is a top priority
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration spokesman Brian Gorman in Seattle told the Associated Press earlier this month that the agency is working with the Coast Guard and the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department to educate boaters about a 2011 requirement to stay at least 200 yards away from orcas. Previously it was just a guideline.
Gorman says they'll make a decision before next summer's boating season on issuing fines. Gorman was responding to a story of boaters getting too close to orcas.
A Coast Guard cutter from Port Angeles witnessed a 25-foot pleasure boat remaining within 200 yards of whales near Orcas Island on Aug. 15. The boaters were told they were too close.
Too much watching?
Maya addressed concerns that his whale tours “dog” the local orcas in an email:
“Since the 24th, we have seen the Resident Orcas, Js, Ks, and Ls, only on one day, the 27th. (No, the Residents are not "dogged every day from dawn until dusk" as some would have you believe. We have seen them less than 1/2 the days in August, and then there are the seven months when we might see only J Pod once a month, and then there are the night time hours...)
We have been seeing Humpbacks and Minkes every day, and Transient Orcas. Transient numbers are increasing since they do have an ever-growing population of harbor seals to feed on.”