Young Gray Whale Off Mission Beach Attracts Humans and Dolphins – Some Rules to Follow in Close Encounters

by on February 28, 2019 · 0 comments

in Ocean Beach

Whale and humans; screen capture from abc10News

On Wednesday, Feb. 27, a young gray whale in shallow waters off Mission Beach was so close to shore that it attracted a bunch of humans – and dolphins.

About noon, lifeguards received a call that a whale was maybe trapped in a fishing line, but upon investigation by a lifeguard who swam up to the whale, it was seen not to be entangled.

Meanwhile dolphins and surfers approached the whale – which could have been up to 50 feet in length. It was estimated to be a year and half old – still a youngster.

These humans probably got too close, as these huge mammals are so heavy – up to 80,000 pounds – and so strong that one wrong move, one flick of its tail could spell disaster for any overly-curious human. Close encounters with humans can also stress the animal out.

10News reported:

Gray whales are starting to migrate north from Mexico during the spring. There is a good chance San Diegans will see more mothers and juvenile whales closer to shore, Biagini says, because the shallow waters keep the whales safe from orcas.

We’d like to repost new regulations adopted by the National Atmospheric and Oceanographic Administration in 2011  under the Marine Mammal Protection Act and Endangered Species Act to encourage the public to ‘be whale wise.’

The NOAA guidelines include:

DO NOT APPROACH or position your vessel closer than 200 yards to any killer whale in the U.S.

DO NOT APPROACH or get closer than 100 yards to any other marine mammals or birds, whether on the water or on land.

BE CAUTIOUS, COURTEOUS and QUIET when around areas of known or suspected marine wildlife activity, in the water or at haul-outs and bird colonies on land. Especially from May to September during breeding, nesting and seal pupping seasons.

LOOK in all directions before planning your approach or departure from viewing wildlife.

SLOW DOWN: reduce speed to less than 7 knots when within 400 yards of the nearest marine mammal and reduce your engine’s noise and vessel’s wake.

ALWAYS approach and depart from the side, moving parallel to their direction of the animal’s travel. If the animal(s) are approaching you, cautiously move out of the way and avoid abrupt course changes. DO NOT approach from the front or from behind.

IF your vessel is not in compliance with the 100 yards approach guideline (#1), place engine in neutral and allow animals to pass.

PAY ATTENTION and move away, slowly and cautiously at the first sign of disturbance or agitation from any animal.

STAY on the OFFSHORE side of the whales when traveling close to shore.

ALWAYS avoid going through groups of porpoises or dolphins and hold course and reduce speed gradually to discourage bow or stern-riding.

LIMIT your viewing time to 30 minutes or less. This will reduce the cumulative impact of all vessels and give consideration to other viewers.

DO NOT disturb, swim with, move, feed or touch any marine wildlife. If you are concerned about a potentially sick, stranded animal, or entangled animal, contact your local stranding network.


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