Dozens of whales have been spotted off the coast of Northern California’s coast prompting authorities to raise a red flag, warning boating enthusiasts. Around one hundred and fifteen humpback, blue and fin whales were spotted during a one-hour survey last weekend near the Farallon Islands.
“We are alerting small boaters and large vessel operators to be on the alert for endangered whales, and to maintain minimum distances,” said Maria Brown, superintendent of the Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary.
Although the risk is not huge, officials are asking recreational boaters, including fishermen, to maintain a distance of least 300 feet — the federal minimum distance guideline in order to avoid any hostile interactions. Previously, a family celebrating a wedding anniversary had an unexpected interaction with a dolphin leading to multiple injuries.
Roger Thomas, the 80-year-old dean of the Bay Area salmon fleet who serves as skipper of Sausalito’s Salty Lady, said there seem to be more whales near shore this year than ever before.
“It’s unbelievable,” he said. “Whales are all over the place.”
Drawn in to feed on waves of krill, a tiny shrimp-like crustacean that’s a staple of blue whales’ diet, and huge schools of anchovies, which attract humpbacks, whales are dominating the region more than ever before, according to Thomas, who runs whale-watching trips for the Oceanic Society when the Salty Lady isn’t chartered by salmon fishermen.
On a whale-watching trip, Thomas said he sighted 25 humpbacks and three blue whales, most within range of Southeast Farallon Island.
Onlookers at San Francisco’s Land’s End one day saw eight to 10 humpbacks just a mile offshore — pectoral fin slapping, lob tailing and both singular and serial breaching, Nan Sincero of the Oceanic Society told the San Francisco Chronicle.
“The humpbacks at the entrance to the bay have been hanging out for weeks,” Sincero said. “They are in heaven with all the food out there.”