Coast Guard reminds waterway users to stay away from marine mammals

Coast Guard District 11 NewsMONTEREY, Calif. — Crewmembers of U.S. Coast Guard Station Monterey Bay are enforcing Monterey Bay Marine Sanctuary regulations and water safety during routine patrols.

A number of Humpback whales have been spotted near the Santa Cruz entrance buoy, which is one mile west of the Santa Cruz Harbor. Although it’s normal for whales to be spotted in this vicinity this time of year, the whales are unusually close to shore this year.

The Coast Guard has received several reports of kayakers, paddle boarders and recreational boaters getting dangerously close to these giants in the water. Water enthusiasts are not only putting themselves in danger, but they are putting the whales in danger as well. Human interaction with feeding whales can disturb the whales eating patterns and is considered harassment.

Coast Guard officials are reminding all waterway users that taunting and harassing these animals is illegal and is punishable by law. The Monterey Bay Marine Sanctuary has very stringent regulations and they will be enforced. Harassment of marine animals carries a minimum fine of $2,500 and can be up to $32,500. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration also enforces the sanctuary regulations and will be working with the Coast Guard, in a joint operation starting Nov. 1, to protect our natural marine resources. This joint operation recommends boaters and all water enthusiasts to keep at least 100 yards away from the whales and other marine life.

“The Coast Guard is an environmental protection and law enforcement agency,” said Lt. John Suckow, executive officer Station Monterey. “As such we take these missions seriously, but at the same time we want the residents and tourists to enjoy the natural beauty of the Monterey Bay Marine Sanctuary. Our main priority during these patrols is to protect marine life and human life and remind people to be safe and respectful of marine wildlife.”

Boaters and water enthusiasts are also encouraged to practice safe boating and water habits like wearing a properly fitting lifejacket, the buddy system, having a float plan in place with a responsible person on shore and having other emergency gear readily available. Boaters are also encouraged to carry a VHF marine band radio and an electronic position indicating radio beacon to use in case of an emergency.

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