Experts concerned about whale safety in San Francisco Bay

Byby Melanie Woodrow via KGO logo
Friday, June 30, 2017
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Many people are being treated to close encounters with whales but some experts say it's too close for the whales' comfort.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Whale watchers come from all over to San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge. Many people are being treated to close encounters but some experts say it's too close for the whales' comfort.

Pictures show a small boat making contact with a humpback whale. The person who took them told ABC7 News by phone it looked like the boat hit the whale.

NOAA says it's seen pictures from at least two separate incidents in the last 10 days.

"We feel that these are a result of carelessness and lack of self control," said Mary Jane Schramm, spokesperson for the Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary.

VIDEO: Small boat appears to hit humpback whale in SF Bay

The humpback whales have been feeding near the Golden Gate bridge. "Super exciting. Thrilling in fact," said San Francisco resident Tracy Pore.

Pore says she's enjoyed seeing the whales from a safe distance while walking her dogs. It's those on the water who are getting too close.

"If they hit a whale and the whale accidentally strikes their boat back just out of a reflexive action, who is going to have to come in and rescue them," said Schramm.

In addition to boaters, Schramm believes kite surfers and wind surfers are intentionally getting too close. "They're specifically targeting them probably for the thrill," she said.

ABC7 News spotted a windsurfer and boat near a whale on Thursaday.

"It's awe-inspiring to see them that close but you have to respect that it's a wild animal," said Pore.

NOAA says it is now keeping a watchful eye. Schramm says it's less about issuing fines and more about raising awareness.

Editor's note: Captain Joe from San Francisco Whale Tours has been in contact with NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association) and Mary Jane Schramm from the National Marine Sanctuary. They all agree the best way to see whales is on a professional tour. They discourage people from renting boats and trying to whale watch on their own. This can do more damage to the livelihood of whales in and around the San Francisco Bay.

Click here for more stories about whale sightings in the Bay Area and around the world.