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Cetacean and boat rules

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If sailing with your boat in Spanish waters, you are lucky enough to see a group of cetaceans and you want to get closer, you have to do it gently, at a maximum speed of 4 knots, from behind and at an angle of 30º. During the observation, a parallel trajectory must be maintained, without sudden changes in speed or direction, standards defined by Royal Decree 1727/2007.


This Royal Decree defines the concept of mobile space for the protection of cetaceans, which is the perimeter of an imaginary cylinder that includes marine and air spaces with a radius of 500 meters, with a height of 500 meters in the air space and a depth of 60 meters in the marine space, around the cetacean or group of cetaceans. Within this space, no activity can be carried out that could kill, harm or disturb the animals. Specifically, it is prohibited:

- Physical contact of boats or people with animals.

- Bathing with the animals.
- Throwing food, drink, rubbish or any other solid or liquid substance that could harm them.
- Prevent them from moving freely.
- Separate the group of animals.
- Produce loud and shrill noises and sounds to get closer or further away.

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It should be noted that cetaceans have been protected in Portugal since 1981 (Decree-Law No. 263/81) and by various international agreements. It is important to pay attention to the following aspects to prevent/avoid disturbing situations, since we all contribute to the preservation of these species:

1. Whaling vessels must maintain safe distances from the animals while observing them, for example, it is prohibited for more than three platforms to remain within a radius of 100 m around the closest cetacean or group of cetaceans (for more information see Decree - Law No. 9/2006, of January 6).

2. Like the previous boats, recreational boats must be careful when sailing with cetaceans or turtles in the vicinity, to avoid collisions or injuries to them, avoiding the approach or persecution of animals and respecting the distances referred to the previously identified decree.

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