Letter: Stay at least 100 yards away from whales


By on Sat, June 13, 2009

There have been reports of sea kayakers and surfers who are approaching and possibly harassing, a small number of gray whales that have been feeding in nearshore waters off Pacifica for several weeks. The group of whale includes at least one calf.

Gray whales and other marine mammals are federally protected against harassment or other disruption by the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972.

The gray whale population has been declining. They are experiencing a depletion of their normal food in their Arctic feeding grounds due to the changing ocean conditions, and are being forced to find other feeding locations along their migration route. Approximately one third of the gray whale population died during 1999-2000, many of them emaciated. Any activity that might drive them away from a newfound foraging area, or cause them to dive more frequently or deeper, seeking safety from harassment, could constitute a violation of the MMPA.

NOAA’s guidelines to avoid harassing whales, is to remain at least one hundred yards away from whales.

Anyone seeing someone approach whales or other marine mammals within 100 yards is asked to notify the National Oceanic and Atmospheric (NOAA) Enforcement Hotline 1-800 853-1964 and provide details of the incident.

Mary Jane Schramm
Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary