Leave the animals alone

It depends on the area. In Kodiak where I learned to kayak, paddling on the north Pacific waters often put us in close proximity of surfacing/feeding whales…out of the blue and sometimes within a couple hundred yards of the shoreline. We share the ocean with all creatures, perhaps as a guest in some areas, but encounters do happen. I totally agree that if you have the option/opportunity to move back away, by all means do so. Every encounter doesn’t necessarily mean an intentional intrusion…and believe me, when a huge humpback rises to the surface 20 yards from your kayak (as happened to me on a few occasions), the last thing you want to do is get even closer.


@daddyjack, respectfully disagree. Sharing an ecosystem with these magnificent creatures, to me, puts things in proper perspective, a humble reminder that we are finite and of the awesome power of nature. I’ve kayaked among alligators, dolphins, and witnessed a large stingray breach just a few yards from my boat. I don’t believe my presence was a threat to any of them. I don’t touch them or bother them, simply observe. I never initiate the contact, i.e. paddling to them.

Helen Keller said it best. “Security is mostly a superstition. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.”


It does not matter what you think and how you feel.
The Marine Mammals Protection Act requires you stay at least 100 yards away from them.


I’ve been paddling the Bay of Fundy when Northern Right Whales appeared, we stayed way back, and still got a great show; still remember it all these years later.

As The Nazz commented they are not concerned about a person in a kayak who might be over top of them.

The video just goes to show that there is nothing common about common sense.

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Actually it doesn’t.

In the Marine Mammal Protection Act (the main law protecting whales), there are no distances listed. It basically just says you can’t hunt, capture, kill, or harass marine mammals. Over the years, harass has been defined to include changing the animal’s behavior. This is the area which a whale watcher could possibly be going against.

NOAA (the government body that would enforce the MMPA) has guidelines - basically you should stay 100 yards from whales and 50 yards from smaller mammals. But guidelines are not rules. I read them as if you stay 100 yards from a whale, they won’t consider you harassing, even if the animal does change behaviors. But if you go closer, you could be considered to be harassing depending on what you do and if the whale changes behavior.

Note - some animals in some locations do have specific, codified distances. Specifically Humpbacks in Hawaii or Alaska, Orcas in the Salish Sea, and Right Whales on East Coast.

There could also be local ordinances that specify distances, but these are rare and there arent any where this incident happened.

More details, including the areas/animal’s that do have specific distance rules - https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/insight/viewing-marine-life

Not saying what the kayakers did was right, smart, acceptable, etc. - just clarifying the rules.

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Funny thing on the marine mammal protection. You can’t so much as touch a dead seal or other marine mammal on the beach, yet the tax code lets a gillnetter write off a rifle per year… every other? Can’t remember. You can write off a rifle as something used to protect your net. Now the only thing to protect a gillnet from is seals so… Seems to be conflict in the government opinion of marine mammals.

The most dangerous and destructive species on planet Earth are human beings. In addition, they are almost the sole cause of the spread of other invasive species.

Not to mention habitat destruction.


I have paddled around whales where I live we have Orca, Minky, Gray and Humpback whales. I don’t intentionally get anywhere near them because all whales are impacted if you approach them. I am disgusted by the whale watching operations here where I live. The practice should be banned. It is a rush to have a whale so near. In one case i was paddling along and saw some killer whales off in the distance. I stopped paddling to watch them go by when a huge male Orca swam directly under me and surfaced about 50 feet in front of me. That was exciting for sure to be so near such a huge animal. I feel they know exactly where you are and will navigate around you if you stay still.