Monday, March 18, 2013

Dolphins in the East River? Good time to review the Marine Mammal Protection Act code of conduct

With all of the current excitement about the dolphins in the East River, this is a good time for us local recreational boaters to review the viewing code of conduct for mammals protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act - I think I have a link over in the sidebar but local paddler Chris Schiffner posted a summary for us today on NYCKayaker so I'm taking advantage of that to just do a quick little copy-and-paste PSA here on Frogma. It's really wonderful that more and more of these "charismatic megafauna" types are choosing to call our waterways home these days - here's how we can show them the proper respect when we are lucky enough to encounter them.

1. Remain a respectful distance from marine mammals and sea turtles.
   The minimum recommended distances are:
     *dolphins, porpoises, seals = 50 yards
     *sea turtles = 50 yards
     *whales = 100 yards.
   Federal law prohibits all approaches to right whales within 500 yards.

2. Time spent observing marine mammals and sea turtles should be limited to 1/2 hour.

3. Marine mammals and sea turtles should not be encircled or trapped between watercraft, or watercraft and shore.

4. If approached by a marine mammal or sea turtle, put your watercraft's engine in neutral and allow the animal to pass. Any vessel movement should be from the rear of the animal. Pursuit of marine mammals and sea turtles is prohibited by Federal law.

5. Never feed or attempt to feed marine mammals or sea turtles. Federal law prohibits feeding or attempting to feed marine mammals.

Violations can be prosecuted either civilly or criminally and are punishable by up to fines of $100,000 and/or up to a year in jail.

I was happy to look these over again today and I'm passing them along because it's good to have them in mind. It's exciting just knowing that these attractive animals are in the area, and it's all too easy to forget yourself when you spot one! I remember the first time I saw a seal in the upper harbor, a couple of us with cameras got so excited we completely forgot our manners and made a beeline for the poor guy, who was having a nice sunbathe on a little beach on Governor's Island until we interrupted him. I don't think we got within 50 yards (our local seals are very skittish when on land) but I felt very bad for scaring him off.

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