In rare sighting, whales seen swimming under Golden Gate Bridge — again; video

A naturalist on a whale-watching tour last week snapped a photo of a humpback whale breaching with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background. The well-timed shot led some to question whether it was real or not.

Well, the photo taken by Ryan Jones aboard a San Francisco Whale Tours boat looking toward San Francisco Bay is real, and, as it turns out, it was a precursor of what was to come.

On Wednesday morning, KGO’s Sky7 helicopter captured video of whales swimming under the Golden Gate Bridge, marking the second consecutive year whales have entered the bay. KGO reported the story:

“It is rare to see the whales so close to the bay,” Kathryn Nazar, a spokesperson for Pier 39-based Whale Tours, told SFGate last week. “We have seen it the last couple years [but] more in the summer months.”

Last May, unprecedented numbers of humpback whales entered San Francisco Bay to likely feed on anchovies or krill.

At the time, Mary Jane Schramm of the Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary told the San Francisco Chronicle that it was “the first time I’ve heard of this many humpbacks coming in this far.”

Now, they’re back again.

“We are going to be very much on the lookout this year to see if some of the same whales that kept coming in on a regular basis last year are the same ones coming in this year, so it’s a newly learned behavior,” Schramm told KGO.

Adam Ratner of the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito identified the two whales swimming under the Golden Gate Bridge in the video as being humpback whales based on their coloration, blow hole and moment.

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Why they are back in the bay is left to conjecture, though marine biologists told KGO that they are probably again chasing food.

Last year they stayed in the bay through August, which leads to a concern. Officials are now trying to figure out a way to protect them from the ships and boats that travel through the bay.

For those interested, here is the extended version of Sky7’s footage of the whales passing the Golden Gate Bridge: