Again,San Juan West Side “No Boat Zone” Threat

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Two years ago the “No Boat Zone” on San Juan’s West Side was defeated but the MRC wants to revisit the idea. Please help voice an opinion against this invasive effort.What can you do?

* Email County Council

* Refer to the Marine Resources Committee Website and contact their board members.

* Attend the MRC meeting Wed Dec 5th, 8:45-10;45 AM at the Islander’s Bank Community Room(Downstairs in the admin building)

Read the letter below for details:

Dear San Juan County Council Members,

My name is Brian Goodremont, owner and operator of San Juan Island Outfitters here onSan JuanIsland.  I have been a resident here since 1998, and business owner since 2008.  I am contacting you today as theUSPresident of the Pacific Whale Watch Association with serious concerns about a topic that affects our entire business community.

I recently learned that our San Juan County MRC will be hosting Lynne Barre of NOAA at the December 5th MRC meeting to discuss an Orca Protection Area as part of a Marine Protected Area on the west side of San Juan Island.

As you all are aware, this issue was brought to the attention of the council almost two years ago when the council was asked to provide its opinion as public comment during the federal review process.  San Juan County Council voted not to support a “no go zone” because the action was considered destructive to the San Juan Island sustainable tourism economy, it would do little to recover Southern Resident Killer Whales (SRKW), it would be difficult and expensive to enforce, and it would further polarize the community.  Instead, the council supported enforcement of the existing laws that have not been enforced and monitor the current laws for efficacy.

I am contacting you today to ask why our local MRC has initiated a conversation with NOAA and other NGO’s about a “no boat zone” on limited understanding of all the background and best available science think that it should take up the subject after NOAA spent hundreds of thousands of dollars and two years researching, and come up the west side of San Juan Island less than two years after the same concept was rejected by the public and put on the back burner by NOAA until a later time.  Furthermore why would our local MRC with very with a better management strategy for recovering Southern Resident Killer Whales.

Local and regional whale watch and sea kayak operators have demonstrated a commitment to sustainable and responsible wildlife viewing practices, and the data bears that out.  Commercial whale watch boats are responsible for less than 12% of the recorded infringements of voluntary guidelines.  Of those 12%, less than 1% are considered serious where vessels are actually running their engines or operating their vessels with whales present.  This is in stark contrast to non-commercial whale watch and pleasure craft that are responsible for the 88% of incidents with a much higher percentage of dangerous “serious” incidents.

More and more data is demonstrating that the presence of commercial vessels does not impact SRKW in a negative way, and the population is effected more by food supply.  This has been reinforced by a recent NOAA publication on Salmon, as well as a vessel study from theUniversityofWashington.

In Summary, as a representative of the local whale watch community it is disheartening to have moved past these discussions at the federal level less than two years ago, only to have our local MRC whose background, understanding, and resources are vastly inferior to NOAA on this subject propose to bring it to the forefront again.  It is particularly disheartening considering NOAA itself and most of the respected research community has moved past an emphasis on vessel effects on SRKW to address the difficult task of recovering Chinook Salmon Stocks per the SRKW Recovery Strategy.  I do respect the ability for local NGO’s and government to preserve it’s marine resources and way of life, however in this circumstance I would suggest the MRC and San Juan County Council allow the current (and very recently created) federal rules time for integration, research and monitoring.  With hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on monitoring SRKW at the federal level, shouldn’t we be waiting for NOAA to provide the initiative to engage in this discussion again?  Should the MRC want to engage in a productive discussion, they should determine how they may support the enforcement of existing laws considering in 2010 and 2011 there were on average 30 patrols by NOAA and WDFW that were dedicated to SRKW.  Those patrols were often less than 4 hours long, and not in peak season.  To reduce any “potential” threats from vessels, even NOAA agrees that what we need is more money for monitoring and enforcement, not more regulations.

Please feel free to contact me at any time to discuss the background on the recent federal rules, the most recent best available science, or the Pacific Whale Watch Association’s position on these issues.  Many of the PWWA members live right here onSan JuanIslandand are an integral part of this community.

Thanks in advance for your time and consideration.


Brian Goodremont, San JuanOutfitters

Information provided by Bill Wright, San Juan Safaris 378-1323