Whale spends record 10 weeks in SF Bay. Here's why it's concerning scientists

ByTim Johns KGO logo
Wednesday, April 26, 2023
Whale has spent a record 10 weeks in SF Bay, concerning scientists
This gray whale is one of eight that's believed to have come through the Golden Gate Strait this year, which scientists say is unusual and concerning.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Scientists are worried about a trend they're noticing with whales around the San Francisco Bay.

But there's one whale in particular that's puzzling local scientists.

The Marine Mammal Center in Marin County estimates that the whale arrived in the Bay on February 9, so that would mean it's been in the Bay for about 75 days.

That amount of time shatters the previous record where a whale spent 46 days inside the Bay.

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A researcher at the Marine Mammal Center who has been watching SF Bay for decades says, lately, there's been a lot more to keep an eye on.

It was a special sight for RJ Andrews late last week. He says he was kayaking in the Bay when all of a sudden he spotted a whale.

"You can go on whale watches and you can see whales, and you can drive along certain parts of the California coast and see whales pretty close, but never from a kayak," Andrews said.

This whale is one of eight that's believed to have come through the Golden Gate Strait this year.

"That's also unusual," Bekah Lane with the Marine Mammal Center said. "Usually it's more like two or three gray whales that spend a significant amount of time in the Bay."

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She says while the whales might be fun to see, their presence isn't always a good thing.

"We do think that the gray whales are coming into the Bay because they don't have enough food essentially to make it all the way up on their migration," Lane said.

Lane says climate change has altered the habitats of gray whales' prey. That's forcing the whales to look for food sources in places they normally wouldn't go, like the Bay.

But that comes with risks, too.

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"We're very worried about ship strike, as it's been a cause of death for several other whales that have washed up," Lane said.

Experts say if you're out on the water and encounter a whale, the best thing to do is keep your distance.

They also encourage people to call The Marine Mammal Center.

"We use these community sightings often to help us go out and find these whales to photo ID them, take information on their behavior," Lane said.

Scientists say they only try to guide whales out of the Bay in extreme circumstances.

So, for now, they're hoping this one finds its way out on its own.

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