Viewing Marine Animals

Viewing Marine Mammals in the Wild
To reduce the potential for wildlife viewing that inadvertently harms marine mammals or violates Federal law, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) provides the following information and guidelines for viewing whales, dolphins, seals, and sea turtles in the NMFS Southeast Region (from North Carolina to Texas, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands).

Close approaches by humans to marine mammals may cause them to lose their natural wariness and become aggressive towards people. They are also vulnerable to injury or death from entanglement in fishing gear or boat strikes. NMFS strongly encourages people to follow the guidelines presented here while spending time on or near the water.

Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Viewing
"Code of Conduct"

1. Remain a respectful distance from marine mammals and sea turtles. The minimum recommended distances are:

  • dolphins, porpoises, seals = 50 yards
  • sea turtles = 50 yards
  • whales = 100 yards*
    * Federal law prohibits all approaches to right whales within 500 yards.

2. Time spent observing marine mammals and sea turtles should be limited to 1/2 hour.

3. Marine mammals and sea turtles should not be encircled or trapped between watercraft, or watercraft and shore.

4. If approached by a marine mammal or sea turtle, put your watercraft's engine in neutral and allow the animal to pass. Any vessel movement should be from the rear of the animal.*
* Pursuit of marine mammals and sea turtles is prohibited by Federal law.

5. Never feed or attempt to feed marine mammals or sea turtles.*
* Federal law prohibits feeding or attempting to feed marine mammals.

Info from The National Marine Fisheries at