Experts says humpback whale sighted in waters off Alameda appears to be unhealthy

ALAMEDA, Calif. (KGO) -- The giant animal is not necessarily lost, but apparently in some kind of distress. That's the word from the experts at the Marine Mammal Center on the rare sighting of a humpback whale in the San Francisco Bay near the USS Hornet in Alameda.

"It's lost a lot of weight. We can tell that. So there's some problem with it," said Bill Keener, an associate researcher with the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito. "We're just not sure what it is at this point. That's why we're monitoring it, but it still has a lot of energy."

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The whale is an adult, possibly female.

This is the time of year that humpbacks begin migrating from Mexico to the Northern California coast for feeding. That's a different pattern from the gray whales, who typically pass by San Francisco Bay on their way to Alaska.

So far this year, about 70 gray whales have washed up on the West Coast, including several here in the Bay Area. Some have been malnourished, injured by ship strikes or both.

"The gray whales are just at the tail end of their northbound migration back to their feeding grounds in Alaska," explained the Marine Mammal Center's Ryan Berger, "and now our humpback whales are actually moving into our area to actually feed in the productive California current eco-system. What we think might be happening, similar to the gray whales is they're struggling to find food."

The ailing humpback was first seen in Alameda's Seaplane Lagoon about a week ago and has become quite a draw for those wishing to take in nature's unusual show-- up close.

"It's incredible. I can't believe it's here," said Bruno Stockman-Simon, an elementary school student from Oakland. "I've only seen a whale once and it's like amazing."

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"It's pretty cool. I saw it on the news and I thought, wow that's pretty cool," said Felix Gustafsson-Hebel.

"I hope it gets back to its original home and gets nursed back to health," said Aria Gustafsson-Hebel, also a young student from Oakland.

Officials from the Marine Mammal Center and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will continue to monitor the humpback. At this point, there are no plans to try to herd it back out to sea as they may only cause it further distress.
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