This week marks 45 years of the Marine Mammal Protection Act going into effect, making it illegal to hunt or harass marine mammals. This groundbreaking act, enacted on October 21st, 1972 and put into effect on December 21st of that year, recognized the importance of marine mammals to the overall health of marine ecosystems and put policies into place that protected marine mammal populations from decline due to human activity. The Marine Mammal Protection Act was crucial in reviving ocean life and contributing to the well-being of marine mammals such as Steller sea lions, sea otters, and the many species of whales that we see while cruising in Kenai Fjords National Park and Prince William Sound.
Onboard Major Marine Tours cruises into these areas you will learn about the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the population struggles and successes of different marine mammal species that we encounter. Major Marine Tours is committed to the health and well-being of the animals that reside in the waters that we explore, and our onboard Kenai Fjords National Park Rangers, National Forest Rangers, captains, and naturalist crew members will share with you their knowledge and passion for our local wildlife species and the importance of their preservation.
Although many of the animals protected by the act are still endangered, the Marine Mammal Protection Act has tremendously helped the North Pacific humpback whales. At one point, this species was depleted to less than 10% of historic levels. Since the Marine Mammal Protection Act was enacted, the North Pacific humpback whales have recovered to more than 90% of those levels, according to the International Fund for Animal Welfare. This can be witnessed firsthand each summer when the humpback whales return from their winter breeding grounds to the nutrient rich waters of Kenai Fjords National Park. During the peak whale watching months of June and July you can often see large groups of 10 or more humpback whales feeding together.
One way that Major Marine Tours assists with the success and application of the act is through the Whale SENSE program. Whale SENSE is a voluntary education and recognition program sponsored by NOAA Fisheries and Whale and Dolphin Conservation to promote responsible whale watching. Major Marine Tours practices safe whale watching by traveling slowly around whales, not approaching closer than 100 yards, and educating our crew and passengers about wildlife. It is always important to observe and not disturb these animals in their natural habitat, but sometimes whales do get curious or friendly and approach the boat. In this scenario, the captain will put the engines are into neutral so the whales can maneuver around the boat as they please.
With safe practices across the board for whale watching companies like Major Marine Tours we can continue the success of the Marine Mammal Protection Act that has been preserving the health of our oceans for 45 years.