Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Marine Affairs


Marine Affairs

First Advisor

Tracey Dalton


Recovery of the endangered Southern Resident killer whales of the Salish Sea is impeded by threats such as vessel disturbances and noise. Reduction of vessel disturbances is a key component for recovering the population, but recreational vessel operators have high rates of noncompliance with rules intended to reduce noise. Noncompliance with regulations has traditionally been explained using an instrumental approach for compliance, but this approach is insufficient for fully explaining compliance with regulations in the Salish Sea. This study derived factors from two commonly-used and well-established approaches for understanding compliance behavior—instrumental and normative approaches—and combined them into an integrative or unified model for compliance. In doing so, this study was an exploratory analysis of the multidimensional factors that may influence compliance by recreational boaters in the Salish Sea.

This study surveyed 115 recreational boaters in Washington State and found that boaters’ compliance with vessel regulations in the Salish Sea is primarily influenced by normative factors such as a strong sense of personal responsibility, shaped by perceptions of risk and expectations from other boaters while underway; support for vessel regulations to reduce harm to whales; and attitudes toward policymakers and participation in the rulemaking process. Enforcement and penalties for infractions were not significant in explaining compliance behavior. Boaters’ high levels of self-reported compliance may indicate a disconnect between boaters’ intended behaviors, as measured in this study, and their actual behaviors as observed by resource managers and other researchers. Interventions are suggested that may improve compliance outcomes and support recovery of the Southern Resident killer whales.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Available for download on Wednesday, May 08, 2024