California’s Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary (GFNMS) has begun issuing warnings to recreational boaters and commercial vessel operators alike. An abundance of whales has shown up off the northern coast of California, and many of them are endangered. Everyone on the water is told to keep a lookout for these endangered species, and is reminded to stay a safe distance away from them. While tourists and sightseers may find so many whales in one place fascinating, it brings substantial worry to officials.
What is considered an ‘abundance of whales’?
Maria Brown, superintendent of the GFNMS, says that on a recent study trip to the Farallon Islands last week, her and her crew spotted at least 115 whales of endangered species within one single hour. That means that there were two of these gentle giants spotted almost every minute.
According to Roger Thomas, the 80 year-old skipper of the Salty Lady, a ship in the Sausalito fishing and boating company, as well as the dean of the Bay Area salmon fleet, told reporters that there are definitely a greater abundance of whales closer to shore in comparison to previous years. Thomas remarks that the occurrence is “unbelievable” and that, “Whales are all over the place.”
What brings the gentle giants so close to shore?
It is very likely that the whales are following their food. Humpback whales consume gigantic schools of anchovies, so it is possible those whales are there because of the abundance of anchovies. However there were also several blue whales spotted. Blue whales, the largest animal known to have ever lived on the earth, feed on large amounts of krill which are small crustaceans, very similar to shrimp.
Thomas leads tourists on whale watching expeditions when the fleet isn’t chartered by fishermen. On a recent trip, he reports to have seen 25-30 humpback whales and even a few blue whales. Not only did the tourists get many glimpses of these large creatures, but they got to take advantage of this abundance of whales by getting a closer look as some of the creatures actually came up to the boat.
What precautions are being taken?
Once again, the GFNMS is warning everyone on the water to be on the lookout for this abundance of whales as well as maintain a safe distance. The recommended distance to keep from being hurt by or hurting the endangered species is a minimum of 300 feet (91 m). Large vessel captains should also reduce their vessel’s speed down to 10 knots while approaching San Francisco.