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With the return of blue whales, including recent reports of up to 30 whales feeding and multiple mother/calf pairs, Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary reminds ocean users to follow best practices to reduce harassment and possible vessel strikes that pose risks to the animals and ocean users alike. 

The whales are attracted to the area because of seasonal upwelling of cold, nutrient-rich water that creates a hotspot for krill. Blue whales spend the summer and fall feeding on krill. 

Go slow, whales below

When encountering marine mammals, slow down, operate at no-wake speed. Put your engine in neutral when whales approach to pass.

Never pursue or follow marine wildlife—any vessel movement should be from the recommended distance and slightly parallel to or from the rear of the animal. If you need to move around marine wildlife, do so from behind. Never approach head-on. Slowly leave the area if marine mammals show signs of disturbance.

Keep a safe distance 

Collisions with vessels are a risk to whales, captains and passengers. Remain at least 100 yards away, about the length of a football field, whether you are on a boat, kayak, paddleboard, or any watercraft. 

“By following regulations and recommendations, ocean users can enjoy whales and reduce their impact on the animals, their habitat and also play an important role by helping monitor whales in the sanctuary and nearby waters,” said Chris Mobley, Superintendent, Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary. 

“By locating and reporting distressed animals and providing initial documentation and assessment of the animal–from a safe distance–ocean users act like first responders and are the foundation of our conservation efforts,” he said.

Keeping a sharp eye out for whales and reducing vessel speeds have been shown to reduce the risk of hitting a whale, especially calves, which are particularly susceptible to vessel strikes. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S Coast Guard and Environmental Protection Agency recommend large vessels over 300 gross tons reduce speeds to 10 knots when transiting the Santa Barbara Channel May to December. The sanctuary also recommends vessels of any size do the same to reduce the risk to the whales and damage to their vessels. 

Additional wildlife viewing guidelines, safety tips, and hotlines can be found at:

Report whale sightings

Reporting an issue

To report a dead, injured or stranded marine mammal:

  • West Coast Region Stranding Hotline: 1-866-767-6114

To report entangled marine mammals:

  • Entanglement Reporting Hotline: 1-877-SOS-WHAL or 1-877-767-9425
  • The U.S. Coast Guard: VHF Ch. 16

To report harassments and other violations to law enforcement:

  • NOAA Enforcement Hotline: 1-800-853-1964

Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary was designated in 1980 by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Located off the coast of Santa Barbara and Ventura counties in Southern California, 350 miles south of San Francisco and 95 miles north of Los Angeles, the sanctuary encompasses approximately 1,470 square miles of ocean waters around Anacapa, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, San Miguel, and Santa Barbara islands, extending from the mean high tide of these islands to six nautical miles offshore, and surrounding Channel Islands National Park. The sanctuary’s remote, isolated position at the confluence of two major ocean currents supports remarkable biodiversity and productivity.

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