Now that spring is in the air and many animals are setting off on their annual migrations north, one species in particular caused quite a stir near San Francisco, when a pair of grey whales were spotted near Crissy Field
As ABC7 reports, a full-grown grey whale was spotted in the bay near Marina Green at around 12:30 PM Wednesday.
CBS5 also reports that a pair of whales, believed to be mother and calf, were spotted near Crissy Field Wednesday.
Mary Jane Schramm of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration told CBS5 that an NOAA staffer first spotted the whales on Tuesday.
“Someone got on the intercom and yelled, ‘we’ve got whales up front,'” she told CBS5.
According to Bay City News, the whales were seen again this morning about a quarter-mile off Alcatraz Island and appeared to be heading east, sanctuary spokeswoman Mary Jane Schramm said.
According to Wikipedia (which is imperfect, as you know), there are between 20,000 and 22,000 grey whales in the eastern Pacific travelling between the waters off Alaska and Baja California.
Though rare, about 30 whales a year detour into the Bay as they make their way to their arctic feeding grounds.
Gray whales in particular swim close to the shore, and cow-calf pairs sometimes pause in surf zones for the calf to nurse or rest, or when avoiding killer whales.
San Francisco Bay “may be a little haven to pull into, it can be pretty rough on the outside,” Schramm said.
While not much of a whale is usually visible on the surface, whales can be spotted by their blow, which looks like a puff of smoke about 10 to 15 feet high. Whales will blow several times before diving for three to six minutes, marine sanctuary officials said.
As CBS 5 reminds us, these and all other whales are best admired from afar.
On Wednesday, Schramm said she and other sanctuary officials saw a boat approaching the whales that potentially was too close, according to the law.
Boaters are instructed not to get within 300 feet of a whale, cut across a whale’s path, make sudden speed or directional changes around a whale, or get between a whale cow and her calf. Separating a calf from its mother would doom it to starvation, officials said.
Collisions between boats and whales can have disastrous impacts for both the whale and the vessel, and could result in legal consequences, according to the marine sanctuary, a division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Schramm said that many boaters aren’t aware of the regulations regarding approaching whales, and that boaters may inadvertently cause the whales harm.
“Most people, once they understand the delicacy of the situation, are going to do the right thing,” Schramm said. “A cow with a very young calf, they’re very vulnerable to disturbance. The young one has to bulk up to be equal to the long-distance migration.”
Grey whales, says Wikipedia, can grow as long as 52 feet, weigh as much as 40 tons, and live as long as 70 years.
Scott Morris of Bay City News contributed updates to this report