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PRESS RELEASE / ANNOUNCEMENTS Thursday, May 17, 2012

Blue and Humpback Whales Return to the South Coast

Whales Feeding in Nutrient-Rich Waters of Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary Area; Boaters Asked to Watch Out for Whales

Blue and humpback whales started showing up this month in large numbers to feed in the nutrient-rich waters of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary.


NOAA is asking area boaters to follow whale watch guidelines for their own safety, and for the safety of the whales.

NOAA is concerned about large whale injury and death from vessel strikes along the West Coast. Each year, thousands of ships and smaller vessels pass through the Santa Barbara Channel and collisions with a whale can have disastrous results for both whale and vessel. NOAA recommends keeping a distance of at least 300 feet (the length of a football field) away from all marine animals, whether in the water or on shore. In addition, please do not feed marine mammals.

Boaters also should:

· never cut across a whale’s path

· avoid sudden speed or directional changes

· never get between a whale cow and her calf – if separated from its mother, a calf may not reunite with

her, and could starve to death.

Civil and criminal penalties could apply if these guidelines are not observed. In addition: Please report any collisions with whales or any observed injured, entangled or dead whales to NOAA at 877-SOS-WHALe (877-767-9425) or to the U.S. Coast Guard on VHF Channel 16.

During the summer and fall months, these endangered whales migrate to the sanctuary to feed on their primary prey of anchovies and krill. Blue whales found off California are the only recovering blue whale population in the world with a population estimated at nearly 2000 animals. Although the population has grown since protection began in 1966, the possibility of being struck by a ship or entangled in fishing gear makes the recovery of blue whales uncertain.

All whales are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) and certain large whales, such as blue and humpback whales, are also listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has regulatory responsibility for implementing the MMPA and ESA. Whales in a national marine sanctuary are further protected under the National Marine Sanctuaries Act (NMSA).

The mission of NOAA’s National Marine Sanctuaries is to serve as the trustee for the nation’s system of 14 marine protected areas, to conserve, protect, and enhance their biodiversity, ecological integrity and cultural legacy. Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary was designated in 1980 to protect marine resources surrounding San Miguel, Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz, Anacapa and Santa Barbara islands. The sanctuary spans approximately 1,470 square miles, extending from island shorelines to six miles offshore, and encompasses a rich diversity of marine life, habitats and historical and cultural resources. For more information, visit www.channelislands.noaa.gov.

NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth’s environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Join us on Facebook, Twitter and our other social media channels.

On the Web:

Whale Watching Guidelines: http://sanctuaries.noaa.gov/library/national/oeguidelines.pdf

Ocean Etiquette: http://sanctuaries.noaa.gov/protect/oceanetiquette.html

Whale Watch Operators visiting the sanctuary:  http://channelislands.noaa.gov/edu/edu_vessel.html

Channel Islands Naturalist Corps: http://channelislands.noaa.gov/edu/edu_natc.html

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