Paul Wellman

Leviathan Leaves

The young gray whale lurking about the harbor for nearly three weeks has not been sighted since Saturday, March 21, according to Santa Barbara Harbor Patrol officer Steve McCullough. It presumably continued north to Alaska with the rest of its kind. Joe Cordaro, a wildlife biologist with the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), said the whale seemed healthy when he saw it the previous Wednesday. Though some expressed concern that it looked thin, Cordaro said grays are always thinner on their way back from breeding waters in Baja to feeding grounds in Alaska, where they filter crustaceans from sediment on the sea floor. Three NMFS observers came to the harbor in shifts in response to reports that boaters viewing the whale were getting too close. He said biologists try to enforce a 100-yard distance from the whales, which need every bit of their energy to make it all the way home. They can’t spend their strength dodging boats. The whale appeared to be one or two years old, Cordaro said, about 30 feet long, and weighed maybe 15 tons. He added that it is usually the young ones who come into harbors, “probably because they are curious.”

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