Watch Out For Whales!

Oregon's Whale Interaction Guidelines For All Vessels

Why Watch Out For Whales?

  • Gray whales come to Oregon to feed, supporting their migration and breeding periods. It's important to give them space to find food and not disturb their feeding behavior.
  • To survive, gray whales must gain up to 30% of their body mass (23,000 lbs.) during their summer feeding period so they can recover from and sustain their next migration and breeding periods.
  • Approaching whales too close or too fast can disturb their behavior.
  • Vessel guidelines help balance our desire to view whales in the wild with their need to feed and rest effectively.
  • Following these guidelines will help enhance the sustainability of whale watching in Oregon by making it possible for whales to successfully feed here and return in subsequent years.

The Guidelines For All Vessels

  • Stay beyond 100 yards. If a calf is present, stay beyond 150 yards.
  • Don't approach fast. Don't leave fast.
  • Keep noise to a minimum. (Please don't bang on the side of your boat.)
  • Don't fly drones within 300 yards.
  • Don't spend more than 30 minutes with a whale.
  • Let the animals decide where to go. Don't corral whale or pin it against the shore.
  • Don't attempt to feed or swim with whales.

Gray Whale Facts

  • In Oregon you can see gray whales migrating past the coast, northbound and southbound, and summer resident gray whales feeding in coastal waters between May and October.
  • Gray whales are baleen whales with no teeth. They can be individually recognized by their unique pigmentation patterns.
  • Gray whale population size is about 20,000, and most migrate between lagoons in Baja California (winter months), where they mate and calve, and the Bering Sea (summer months), where they feed. But about 200 individuals stop along the Pacific NW coast (between northern California and southeast Alaska) to spend the summer months.
  • Gray whales in Oregon may feed on zooplankton (little marine bugs). They gulp them up in their big mouths, push out the water, and use their baleen as a sieve to strain the prey.

Other marine mammals regularly seen in Oregon coastal waters include humpback whales, harbor porpoises, California sea lions, and harbor seals.

Did You Know?

Research found that gray whales are 11% more likely to search for food when there are no boats within 150 yards. The federal Marine Mammal Protection Act (1972) prohibits feeding, attempting to feed, or harassing marine animals. (The maximum fine for violating the MMPA is $100,000 and one year in jail.)


Wild Rivers Coast Alliance

Oregon Sea Grant

The Geospatial Ecology of Marine Megafauna Lab (GEMM Lab) at Oregon State University

South Coast Tours

Tradewinds Charters

Dockside Charters

Whale Research EcoExcursions

American Cetacean Society

Marine Discovery Tours

Links (find out more about the guidelines) (learn about marine mammal research in Oregon) (read about federal marine mammal protection) (collect and report marine mammal sightings)

NOAA Law Enforcement Hotline (24 hours): 1-800-853-1964

Leigh Torres
Short Description: 
A brochure outlining the whale interaction guidelines for all vessels in Oregon coastal waters
Product Number: 
Entry Date: 
Wednesday, January 4, 2017
Size and Format: 
8 1/2 x 14, 8-panel brochure, color
Contributors: Zach Starker (designer) and Rick Cooper (copyeditor)
Year of Publication: 
How to Order: 

Free by mail; free PDF download: 


PDF icong16002.pdf