Boaters in Monterey Bay are advised to look out for large numbers of blue whales making their way through the area to feed in the Bay's nutrient-rich waters, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration officials said this week.
Blue whales gravitate to the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, a federally protected offshore area that stretches along 276 miles of California's Central Coast that boasts the whales' preferred prey of anchovies and krill in the summer and fall, according to the NOAA.
The NOAA recommends that the public keep at least 300 feet away from the whales and to refrain from feeding any marine mammals.
A collision with a whale can end in major injuries for the animals and for boaters, NOAA officials say.
In addition, boaters who cut across a whale's path, suddenly speed or change direction while near whales or who get between a whale cow and her calf may be subject to civil and criminal penalties.
Blue whales are an endangered species, with an estimated worldwide population of about 2,000, according to the NOAA.