Washington State

House of Representatives

Office of Program Research



Rural Development, Agriculture, & Natural Resources Committee

SB 5918

This analysis was prepared by non-partisan legislative staff for the use of legislative members in their deliberations. This analysis is not a part of the legislation nor does it constitute a statement of legislative intent.

Brief Description: Providing whale watching guidelines in the boating safety education program.

Sponsors: Senators Lovelett, Warnick, Van De Wege, Conway, Hasegawa, Hobbs, King, Wilson, C., Randall, Nguyen, Dhingra, Frockt, Hawkins, Billig, Das, Hunt, Darneille, Wagoner and Palumbo.

Brief Summary of Bill

  • Requires the Boating Safety Education Program to include educational materials on whale watching guidelines and other voluntary and regulatory measures related to whale watching.

Hearing Date: 3/20/19

Staff: Robert Hatfield (786-7117).


Boating Safety Education Program.

The State Parks and Recreation Commission (Commission) must, among other things, adopt and enforce recreational boating safety rules, including equipment and navigating requirements, consistent with United States Coast Guard regulations. Additionally, the Commission must coordinate a statewide Boating Safety Education Program (Program). The Program must include a minimum standard of boating safety education accomplishment, minimum standards for boating safety course of instruction and examination, and accreditation of boating safety education courses operated by entities such as the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary and the United States Power Squadrons. An equivalency exam may be taken as an alternative to the boating safety education course.

In order to operate a motor-driven boat or vessel of 15 horsepower or greater, a person must be at least 12 years old and: (1) possess a Washington State Boater Education Card (Boater Education Card); or (2) be accompanied by and under the supervision of a person at least s16 years old who has a Boater Education Card.

Certain individuals are not required to have a Boater Education Card, including:

Southern Resident Killer Whale Task Force.

Governor Jay Inslee issued an executive order in 2018 convening the Southern Resident Killer Whale Task Force (Task Force). The Task Force was directed to identify, prioritize, and support implementing a plan to address three threats to southern resident orca whales: (1) prey availability; (2) contaminants; and (3) disturbance from vessel noise. The Task Force in its November 2018 report recommended that additional education should be provided to commercial and recreational boaters.

Summary of Bill:

The Boating Safety Education Program must include educational materials on whale watching guidelines and other voluntary and regulatory measures related to whale watching in the program.

Appropriation: None.

Fiscal Note: Available.

Effective Date: The bill takes effect 90 days after adjournment of the session in which the bill is passed.