Coast Guard Responds to Report of Whale Strike

SAN DIEGO – The U.S. Coast Guard received a report of a possible gray whale struck by a mariner in San Diego Bay on Friday.

At around 1:45 p.m. Sector San Diego received a report of a vessel transiting near Harbor Island inside the bay and struck the whale.

Sector diverted the nearby 33-foot response boat, from Station San Diego, to the scene where the vessel possibly struck the whale, to conduct a boarding of the vessel.

“According to the owner/operator of the 42-foot pleasure craft, they were transiting the area at a slow bell and saw the whale surface behind them,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class George Damanis, the boarding officer who conducted the inspection, “There was no visible evidence that the vessel struck the whale. The whale surfaced several times and we were unable to see any signs of injury to the whale.”

Saturday morning a National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) expert plans to ride along with a crew from Station San Diego to verify if the gray whale was struck.

In addition, the Coast Guard Auxiliary will have assets patrolling the San Diego Bay from sunrise to sunset, to inform mariners to maintain more than 100 yards distance from the whale’s location.  Federal law prohibits mariners from approaching marine mammals, of any kind, within 100 yards when on or in the water, and 1,000 feet when operating an aircraft.

The Coast Guard recommends that vessel operators maintain a proper lookout and travel at a slow, safe speed in areas where a whale strike may occur.

The 30-foot gray whale was first observed inside San Diego Bay March. 10. This is a common season for Gray whales migrate from Alaska to Mexico.

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