I'm reaching out to your organization to help ensure a safe experience on the water for boardsports and boating enthusiasts, and for the whales that are currently feeding in San Francisco Bay and nearshore coastal waters.
NOAA's Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary is concerned about recent incidents that may threaten some our wildlife that are entering San Francisco Bay and adjacent waters.
The local population of humpback whales usually feed in our marine sanctuary waters just beyond the Golden Gate. However, as you may know from the intensive media coverage this phenomenon generated this year and in 2016, the whales are now regularly following anchovies into the narrow bay entrance and the bay itself.
Over the past several weeks there have been a number of documented whale-strikes by small craft and boarders entering areas where these whales are known to be feeding. These are wild animals weighing nearly 80,000 lbs. but are still vulnerable. While here, they are focused heavily on foraging before their lengthy fall migration and several months' fast. Their swimming and surfacing patterns are completely unpredictable. This places anyone who enters the 300-foot perimeter that NOAA recommends in a dangerous position; the whales are in danger, too. If a whale becomes startled or veers suddenly, people can be seriously injured, and anyone near them, or trying to rescue them, could be struck. The whale itself could be lacerated and injured by keel, board or hull impacts, or entangled in lines, or forced into the path of a ship.
Earlier this week a seasoned whale rescuer on the east coast died when a young whale, panicked and trying to escape, struck him with its fluke. We don't want to see that tragedy happen ever again. As a member of NOAA's Large Whale Disentanglement Network, I know that rescue operations never permit actual entry into the water; so it would appear he may have been on a small boat at the time.
NOAA Fisheries is responsible for protecting marine mammals, and I am attaching their "Don't Give Chase - Give Whales Space" flyer. Please share this with your membership and others in the water sport community. A mention of what to do if you have a whale encounter would be a useful addition to a website Q&A page and any other outreach your association provides.
I hope you'll join us in promoting a saner, safer and more environmentally responsible approach to recreation around all forms of marine wildlife. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Mary Jane Schramm
GFNMS Media/Public Outreach