• Boaters, kayakers asked to give whales wide berth

    During the past few days, Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary staff have received many reports of vessels (even paddle boards and kayaks) encroaching on humpback whales within Monterey Bay.  Whales are following an influx of prey into the bay, and when this prey comes inshore, so do the whales.  Other marine mammals are also pursuing these prey fish.

    Approaching too close to humpback whales can be dangerous for humans and whales alike. The whales are focused on feeding, which can often be a violent, high-energy activity. Humpbacks often herd schools of fish to the surface of the water and lunge through the schools with their mouths open, catching the fish in their baleen as the whales rise out of the water.

    Boaters should give such whales a wide berth.  Just one adult humpback whale can weigh as much as 105,000 pounds (52 tons).  Being struck by one of these whales while sitting on the surface of the water would be tantamount to being struck by a moving freight train.

    Aside from the very real risks to human health and safety, drawing too close to whales can have harmful effects on the whales themselves and can disrupt important feeding behavior. Interfering with this feeding could put the whales at risk of not getting enough food to sustain them. Propellers, bowsprits, line, and other boating gear can damage or entangle whales.  Impacts with recreational or commercial boats can cause internal bleeding and damage for whales.
    It is important that the public not crowd or surround these animals.  Boaters should stay 100 yards to the side of transiting whales and should not cross in front of them, pursue them from behind, or surround them.  Never position a vessel over or near feeding whales.  If approached by a whale, a vessel’s captain should disengage the drive system and drift until the whale moves away.  Marine Wildlife Viewing Guidelines<http://sanctuaries.noaa.gov/protect/oceanetiquette.html> for observing marine mammals are available from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

    The Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary has regulations protecting marine mammals, including Humpback whales, from harassment or injury.  Federal and state law enforcement officials will investigate harassment and disturbance incidents.  Fines can range from hundreds to thousands of dollars and can be imposed, regardless of the person’s intent.

    I urge the boating and recreational communities to help the sanctuary protect the whales by giving them the space they need to feed and by reporting whale harassment or injury to the NOAA Enforcement Hotline at 1-800-853-1964.

    Paul Michel
    Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary

    posted to Cedar Street Times on September 19, 2013

    Topics: Front PG News, Green, Sports


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