There are so many whales gathering outside the Golden Gate and around the Farallon Islands, that NOAA officials have issued a warning to area boaters.
“It’s really unbelievable out there right now. There are whales all over the place”, said Bill Bryson, a Sausalito boat captain.
Officials are working with the nearby Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary and the U.S. Coast Guard in order to get their safety message across. Boats and ships passing through the area to must maintain distance from them to prevent interference or harassment, or even life-threatening collisions. Ships traveling inbound and outbound from the Golden Gate have been asked to slow to at least 10 knots in the vessel traffic lanes approaching San Francisco. It’s to protect both the whales and the ship themselves – a strike with a large whale can be deadly for the whale and potentially disastrous for the boat.
Endangered blue and humpback whales are among the population gathering right now, and there are a lot of them. During a one-hour survey near the Farallon Islands on July 4, sanctuary officials counted 115 endangered whales. They are likely drawn in to feed on large populations of krill and huge schools of anchovies.
Recreational boaters are reminded that they also need to keep a safe distance from the whales to comply with federal laws, which mandate a minimum of 300 feet distance from the whales. In Pacifica, Pillar Point and the Golden Gate Strait, reports of boaters getting to close to whales have risen lately, according to sanctuary officials.
All whales are legally protected against harassment under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, and whales within a national marine sanctuary, such as the Farallones and Cordell Bank sanctuaries, are additionally protected under the National Marine Sanctuaries Act, sanctuary officials said.
Boaters who see a whale can report it using a free mobile app called Spotter Pro – click here. More information about the threat of ship stikes is available by clicking here. There are several whale watching boats departing daily, including The Oceanic Society, which offers trips with a naturalist for $128. Information is on their website, and they can also be reached at (415) 256-9604.