Paddlers ignore plea to stop pursuing whale

Paddlers ignore plea to stop pursuing whale
Paddlers ignore plea to stop pursuing whale; video screen grab

While it might seem like fun to paddle a kayak or SUP board near a blue whale, or to pursue the giant mammal in an attempt to stay as close as possible, it's ill-advised and in many cases, illegal.

The accompanying footage shows a kayaker and paddleboarder exhibiting what might be perceived as harassment of a small blue whale off Dana Point, California.

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NOAA whale-watching guidelines suggest that people aboard any type of vessel stay 100 yards away whenever possible (sometimes whales approach idle or stationary boats, at which times it's OK and even advisable to stay put).

NOAA more recently issued guidelines specifically for SUP paddlers. Included: No intentional approach within 100 yards; don't give chase; do not move into the path of a whale, and respect the animal's behavior.

The kayaker and paddler in the Captain Dave's Dolphin & Whale Safari video (and later the private boater) violate at least three of these guidelines, despite please by the whale-watching crew to back off.

But NOAA’s guidelines only guidelines.

The law is broken when human behavior is determined to be harassment, which basically involves changing a whale's behavior, or altering its course.

Monica DeAngelis, a marine mammal specialist with NOAA, stated Wednesday via email:

"My biggest message is this: Whale watching can be a positive, enriching, and educational experience when conducted safely and responsibly. Admiring whales from a distance is the safest and most responsible way people can view them in their natural habitats. Do not endanger them or yourselves. Don’t give chase, give the whales space!"

Blue whales are the largest creatures on the planet. They can grow to 100 feet and weigh 150 tons.

They typically show off Southern California in early summer and stay through early fall, fattening up in shrimp-like krill before migrating out of the area.

A common complaint among responsible whale-watching outfits is that paddlers and kayakers are getting too close, putting themselves and possibly the mammals in danger.

In the video, the SUPpaddler appears to be positioning a GoPro camera beneath the surface, to capture underwater footage. NOAA enforcement personnel might be on the lookout for that, too.

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