Wayward Humpback Whales Making Their Way Back to Ocean

VALLEJO, Calif. – The two wayward humpback whales that have spent the last two weeks in the Sacramento River Delta made progress toward the Pacific Ocean yesterday afternoon when they traveled approximately 25 miles from Rio Vista to Benicia.

“We are very encouraged by the progress the whales have made in
the last 24 hours, but they aren’t home yet,” said Rod McInnis, southwest regional administrator for NOAA Fisheries Service. “They still have a third of their journey to go.”

The whales spent much of Memorial Day circling near the Benicia
Bridge while Department of Fish and Game, U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, NOAA Fisheries and Contra Costa Sheriff’s Office vessels enforced the 500-yard safety zone around the whales.

Scientists continued to monitor and assess the whales’ health and behavior throughout the day, and noted that the calf was extremely active at times and made repeated breaches.

“These waters closer to the ocean are much better for the
whales’ health,” said Teri Rowles, director of marine mammal health at NOAA. “The higher salt content should help improve their skin and heal their wounds, and there may be feeding opportunities for them as well.”

There are no plans to conduct active herding operations Tuesday; however, in the event that the whales start heading back up river, up to 12 boats may be deployed to try to help them get back on course.

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