This is a krill year, which makes whales very happy as they feed voraciously on the little reddish critters. I’m in contact weekly with numerous fishing tackle shops, fishing landings and professional skippers throughout CenCal and NorCal, where from here to the Oregon border (and beyond) the story is the same — massive quantities of krill everywhere.
For huge marine mammals who feed on tiny marine critters, this is booming-good news and they are swimming into our coastal waters in large numbers to feast and enjoy an easy summer of eating and growing. That is great because it gives us chances to see the big cetaceans by going out on whale watch boats or private boats.
With the influx of whales comes additional responsibilities for us to help care for the gentle giants, however. We want to work together to help make our water safe for the whales and safe for us. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recently put out a news release about the whales. Naturally, it’s written from the perspective of its Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary, but the talking points relate to our entire area.
Here is part of the release:
Blue and humpback whales started showing up this month in large numbers to feed in the nutrient-rich waters of NOAA’s Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary. NOAA is asking area boaters to follow whale watch guidelines for their own safety, and for the safety of the whales.
NOAA is concerned about large whale injury and death from vessel strikes along the West Coast. Each year, thousands of ships and smaller vessels pass through the Santa Barbara Channel, and collisions with a whale can have disastrous results for both whale and vessel. The NOAA recommends keeping a distance of at least 300 feet (the length of a football field) away from all marine animals, whether in the water or on shore. In addition, please do not feed marine mammals.
Boaters also should:
» Never cut across a whale’s path.
» Avoid sudden speed or directional changes.
» Never get between a whale cow and her calf — if separated from its mother, a calf may not reunite with her, and could starve to death.
Civil and criminal penalties could apply if these guidelines are not observed. In addition, please report any collisions with whales or any observed injured, entangled or dead whales to NOAA at 877.767.9425 or to the U.S. Coast Guard on VHF Channel 16.
— Capt. David Bacon operates WaveWalker Charters and is president of SOFTIN Inc., a nonprofit organization providing seafaring opportunities for those in need. Visit softininc.blogspot.com to learn more about the organization and how you can help.