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2022 was a record-breaking year for whale sightings, report says

The Pacific Whale Watch Association says it saw great progress with 'sentinel alerts,' notifying vessels when whales are nearby so they can move or slow down.

WASHINGTON, USA — A report released by the Pacific Whale Watch Association this week showed some encouraging signs for several whale species based on data from 2022.

"2022 was a phenomenal year, record-breaking, for several types of species," PWWA Executive Director Erin Gless said. "We had more humpback whale individuals photographed than ever before, since research began, more humpback whale calves than ever before, and lots of Bigg's killer whale babies as well, so it was a really great year for sightings."

Partners within the PWWA can use that information internally to find out where to go to see whales and externally to alert commercial operators and give them a heads up whales are in the area. In 2020, the PWWA began tracking "sentinel actions," including its efforts to notify vessels when they are near whales and clean up debris in the water.

"There's always a hot debate about the role of whale watchers: are we bothering the whales? Is there a benefit to having us there? And, anecdotally, for decades we've known when we're there, we see other boaters slow down and keep their distance, but there were never any numbers to back it up," Gless said. "So what we decided to do starting in the middle of 2020 is keep track, and so again using an internal app, time we contacted a ferry for example, we'd log it in the app, we'd make note whether or not the ferry responded to let us know they're going to change course."

The report says 74% of boaters slowed down or changed course. 

"What that does is it helps to quiet the waters," Gless said. "A slow boat is a quieter boat. And so that makes it a quieter environment and also a safer environment that prevents the risk of a ship strike with a whale."

The full report can be viewed here

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