Study: Distance restrictions on orcas haven’t hurt tourism

SEATTLE (AP) — A study by a federal agency has found that restrictions limiting boats from getting too close to endangered southern resident killer whales have not harmed the whale-watching industry.

The Seattle Times reports the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration study shows whale-watching tourism continues to grow even with the federal restrictions that require vessels to stay at least 200 yards (182 meters) from the orcas in Washington’s Puget Sound.

The agency says lack of food, environmental contamination and boat noise are the primary threats to the survival of Puget Sound orcas.

Researchers say noise from boats can disturb orcas, causing them to spend less time looking for food and more energy communicating. The restrictions enacted in 2011 were aimed at reducing the stress placed on the orcas from noise.