< Back to Recommendations

Recommendation: 20

Status: Underway

Increase enforcement capacity and fully enforce regulations on small vessels to provide protection to Southern Residents.


Action 1

Create a Marine Enforcement Division in the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife with four additional officers focused on protection and enforcement in Puget Sound.

Implementation Details

In the 2019 legislative session, the Washington State Legislature and Governor should provide funding to the Department of Fish and Wildlife to create at least four new fish and wildlife officer positions dedicated to providing marine-based Southern Resident orca protection on every day of the whale-watching season and at other times of need.

The proposed officers should be based in northern Puget Sound in summer and be prepared to shift coverage southward to match the seasonal movements of Southern Residents to central Puget Sound. They will be focused strictly on protection of all marine resources when not engaged in Southern Resident protection activities (such as promoting compliance with Revised Code of Washington 77.15.740 and any new regulations).

To complement their orca protection activities on water, one or more of them will concentrate on enforcement of penalties for egregious noncompliance with regulations and develop strategies for the public to contribute photographic and video evidence of violations the department can pursue.

Funding should be provided to the department to buy an additional vessel and equipment, cover operations and maintenance, and hire additional officers.

Recent Progress

  • In 2021, the Department of Fish and Wildlife received $542,000 to increase patrols to monitor and enforce vessel traffic and to educate boaters on Be Whale Wise.
  • In 2020 and 2021, the department received $139,000 for an orca patrol vessel.
  • Ongoing funding of $1.1 million supports the commercial whale-watching operator license program and will increase enforcement into the future.

More details may be found in the progress reports in the resources library.