TACOMA, Wash. — A jet ski driver and a passenger are facing scrutiny after being caught on camera heading right for a whale in the Puget Sound near Tacoma.
The woman who anonymously submitted the clip to KING 5 said the video was shot Sunday evening off the waters of Dune Park in Tacoma.
The video shows that as the couple approached the animal, a slap comes from the tail of a humpback whale. It's a behavior conservation scientist Kersti Muul says is one of aggression.
“It’s bad for the whale, but it’s also very dangerous for them. They could have been killed,” Muul said. “My gut reaction was a little bit horrified but not surprised. I see this all the time. These violations are happening more and more in the smaller bays and inlets, especially down south."
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The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the federal agency tasked with protecting the mammals, called for boaters to leave a football field between a vessel and whale and twice that for the killer whales found in Washington state. The state’s southern killer whale population is protected by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW)
“It appears to be, from all indications, a clear violation of the MMPA rules regarding within 100 yards of a humpback whale,” said Capt. Alan Myers of the WDFW. “A little video clip like that can yield a whole bunch of information that can help us or our federal partners make the case."
WDFW says boaters could face fines that amount to thousands of dollars, if not jail time, for reckless behavior.
“We would advise them to come forward so that we can talk to them,” Myers added.
Meanwhile, whale sightings are becoming more common in recent years, which is a sign that some populations, including the humpback, are thriving. While that is good news, videos like this are a reminder of the role we play in their success.
For more information on how to report violations, visit the Be Whale-Wise website.