How Not to Hit a Whale

Friday, Sep 17, 2010  |  Updated 1:45 PM PDT
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How Not to Hit a Whale

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Crashing into a whale is no joke.

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Marine officials don't want a repeat of Thursday's tragic scene involving a whale and a cargo ship.

In an attempt to protect whales traveling in and around the Golden  Gate, marine sanctuary officials are asking boaters and vessel operators to  take extra care when navigating the waters off San Francisco.
     
Large whales swim along the North-Central California coast  year-round, but the whales are showing up in numbers now to feed on krill --  tiny shrimp-like crustaceans that are in abundance this time of year,  according to Gulf of the Farallones Marine Sanctuary officials.

Many of these whales travel directly through the busy shipping  lanes off San Francisco because they migrate to the sanctuary located just  beyond the Golden Gate.

Thousands of ships and smaller vessels pass through the Golden  Gate each year. At times, the whales are so distracted by eating that they  fail to evade oncoming boats, sanctuary officials said.

Whales are especially vulnerable around fast-moving boats because  of the threat of being sucked up into the ship's hull and propeller.

Collisions with the animals, which are protected by the Marine  Mammal Protection Act, can have disastrous results for both the whales and  boats, no matter how large or small.

Boaters are advised to keep a minimum distance of 100 yards from  any whale. Additionally, boaters should avoid cutting across a whale's path,  making sudden speed or directional changes, or separating a whale cow from  her calf, which would likely die of starvation, officials said.

Some local species, such as humpback and blue whales, are also  considered endangered and are shielded under the Endangered Species Act
 

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