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Recommendation: 21

Status: Underway

Discourage the use of echo sounders and underwater transducers within 1 kilometer of orcas.


Action 1

Establish a voluntary standard for small vessel operators that limits the use of echo sounders and other underwater transducers within a half nautical mile of Southern Resident orcas.

Action 2

Educate the boating community.

Action 3

Consider phasing in mandatory equipment requirements and regulations

Implementation Details


In 2019, the Governor’s Southern Resident Killer Whale Task Force should consult with the Legislature about opportunities to phase in mandatory equipment requirements (for whale-watching vessels in the recommended limited-entry permit system, for example) and initiate a formal conversation with echo sounder manufacturers and suppliers.


  • By December 2018, the Puget Sound Harbor Safety Committee should develop a “standard of care” for small vessel operators to turn off echo sounders and other underwater transducers when within a half nautical mile of orcas except when necessary for safe navigation. The adopted standard should be reported to the task force and communicated to registered vessel owners in Puget Sound counties through the Washington State Department of Licensing.
  • The task force’s Interagency Communications Group should work immediately with maritime organizations with broad communications networks—such as the Northwest Marine Trade Association, Recreational Boating Association of Washington, U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and Boating Squadron, Washington State Ferries, State Parks and Recreation Commission, ports, marinas, and Be Whale Wise.org— to develop and implement a complementary outreach campaign for voluntary compliance.

Recent Progress

In both Puget Sound and Canadian waters, maritime groups established safe, voluntary standards to reduce the potential interference of depth finders with Southern Residents’ echolocation. Be Whale Wise is working with the boating community to raise awareness on this issue.

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