Video: Gray Whale Surfaces Near Crissy Field

Marine scientists say there is at least one gray whale and her calf in San Francisco Bay, a rare entry. A witness report of a boat harassing the pair has been received, and NOAA is urging boaters to steer clear.

Video of the whale from ABC. The whale surfaces right at the beginning and then again at around :42.

More video from KCBS, which includes an interview with a NOAA official warning boaters to stay away.

Here’s the warning to boaters from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration:

NOAA’s Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary advises San Francisco Bay Area boaters to watch out for and steer clear of whales. Multiple whale species migrate into the area in large numbers during the spring and summer. Boaters should use caution year-round, but springtime presents a higher chance of coming into close contact with whales.

Gray whales are at a particularly high risk of collisions with vessels, as they often travel near the outer coast shore and into San Francisco Bay and Tomales Bay, making their way north from breeding grounds off Mexico to feeding grounds off Alaska. Many of these whales travel directly through the busy shipping lanes off San Francisco in the Gulf of the Farallones sanctuary just outside the Golden Gate.

While several species migrate south through the sanctuary in the winter, gray whales — including mothers with newborn calves — swim closest to shore in the spring. Cow-calf pairs can sometimes be seen from shore, pausing in the surf zone for the calf to nurse or rest and avoiding killer whales.

Boaters should watch for the gray whale’s blow—or exhalation—which looks like a puff of smoke about 10 to 15 feet high, since very little of the whale is visible at the surface. A whale may surface and blow several times before a prolonged dive, typically lasting from three to six minutes.

Boaters should not:

-Approach within 300 feet (about the length of a football field) of any whale

-Cut across a whale’s path

-Make sudden speed or directional changes

-Get between a whale cow and her calf. If separated from its mother, a calf may be doomed to starvation

If you need any more incentive to stay away, watch this video from Santa Cruz last year…

And for whale watchers from way back (not to mention fans of weird Reagan-era hair), check out these two news reports, circa 1985, about Humphrey the Whale, whose Wikipedia entry says is “arguably the most widely publicized humpback whale in history, having errantly entered San Francisco Bay twice.”

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Jon Brooks

Jon Brooks writes mostly on film for KQED Arts. He is also an online editor and writer for KQED's daily news blog, News Fix. Jon is a playwright whose work has been produced in San Francisco, New York, Italy, and around the U.S.

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