Commercial whale-watching licensing program

Orca breaching
Ken Rea

In spring 2019, the Washington Legislature (via RCW 77.65.620) directed the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) to develop rules for a new commercial whale-watching licensing program enacted via Senate Bill 5577: a bill concerning the protection of Southern Resident Orca Whales from vessels

The purpose of creating and defining rules for a new licensing program is to enable sustainable whale watching while reducing the impacts of vessel noise and disturbance so whales can effectively forage, rest, and socialize.

Advisory committee

In October 2019, WDFW solicited applicants for an ad-hoc advisory committee to help develop these rules and processes. To view the meeting schedule and meeting materials, visit the Commercial Whale Watching Licensing Program Advisory Committee page.

Draft language will be shared and refined over the summer of 2020, and the public comment period will follow in fall 2020, with expected adoption of the rules by Jan. 1, 2021.

Public engagement opportunities

Outside of the advisory committee, there are multiple ways for partners and members of the public to participate in the rule-making process.

  • Attend Advisory Committee meetings to listen to the discussion and give public comment. You can also submit a written public comment to the Advisory Committee.
  • Share a public comment as part of the SEPA Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process. While our public comment period is now closed, we'll have another public comment period in September as part of the state's environmental review process.Thank you to the 150+ people who shared their comment on the scope of environmental impacts to consider as part of our work to develop rules for commercial viewing of Southern Resident Killer Whales. 
  • Sign up for our killer whale mailing list to keep up to speed on the process and opportunities to share your ideas and feedback.