Off the west side of San Juan Island, Deborah Giles quickly grabbed her boat’s bright yellow research flag and started waving it at a small boat chopping through the waves.
“That's not something that we typically do,” the orca researcher with the University of Washington's Center for Conservation Biology explained. “Trying to flag them down, so that they will just stop because they're heading right toward a group of whales.”
This summer, Giles said, she’s had to flag down boats three or four times a day, every time she heads out to study the region’s endangered southern resident orcas.
Up and down the Salish Sea, recreational boaters have been closing in on orcas, in violation of state and federal laws, according to researchers, government officials, whale-watch operators and other witnesses.
Up to 30 boaters swarmed a group of six transient orcas near the Tacoma Narrows in July.
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