Gray whales and their young calfs are on their way through the Sanctuary – NOAA has issued an alert that boaters should use caution and avoid impacting these migrating whales.
Gray whales are at a particularly high risk of collisions with vessels, as they often travel near shore and may even wander into the bay. San Francisco Bay and Tomales Bay always have a few springtime gray whale visitors. From March through May, thousands of migrating gray whales make their way north from breeding grounds off Mexico to feed in Arctic waters near Alaska. Many of these whales travel through busy shipping lanes off San Francisco in the Gulf of the Farallones sanctuary just outside the Golden Gate.
Boaters should watch for the gray whale’s blow—or exhalation—which looks like a puff of smoke about 10 to 15 feet high, since very little of the whale is visible at the surface. A whale may surface and blow several times before a prolonged dive, typically lasting three to six minutes.
Boaters should not:
- Approach within 300 feet (the length of a football field) of any whale
- Cut across a whale’s path
- Make sudden speed or directional changes
- Get between a whale cow and her calf – if separated from its mother, a calf may be doomed to starvation.
What's Wrong with Our Seastars?
Starting last year, sea stars (aka starfish) along the west coast from Alaska to Southern California have been dying – due to what scientists are calling “wasting syndrome.” The stars first begin to wither and then disintegrate -- this is quickly wiping out sea star populations along the west coast! Students in our LiMPETS program have been monitoring sea stars at sites along the coast, and are contributing the effort to understand the extent and locations of wasting disease.
As reports continue to become more frequent and widespread, LiMPETS students have mobilized. Based on our student surveys, it appears that the disease has already decimated populations near Half Moon Bay and elsewhere. More broadly, our student efforts are helping to inform a centralized effort led by UC Santa Cruz to track the extent of the disease. For more information, visit the UC Santa Cruz Pacific Rocky Intertidal Monitoring Network website.
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