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Boaters Warned To Steer Clear Of Humpback Whales Feeding In Monterey Bay

MONTEREY (CBS SF) -- Boaters on Monterey Bay are being advised to keep their distance from humpback whales and other marine wildlife feeding on shore, according to the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.

In the past week, sanctuary staff has received reports of vessels including paddleboards and kayaks moving too close to wildlife, MBNMS Deputy Superintendent Dawn Hayes said.

Whales and seabirds are trailing behind their prey swimming to shore and people who are too close to the creatures are putting themselves at risk, Hayes said.

An adult humpback whale can weigh about 150,000 pounds and may travel in groups three or more.

Being struck by a whale is comparable to getting hit by a freight train, according to Hayes. Sanctuary officials advise boaters to stay at least 100 yards away from feeding or traveling whales.

Boat hulls are made of materials such as fiberglass, wood and metal that would not withstand the impact of a whale. People inside the boat may potentially get injured and drown, Hayes said.

Whales that strike a boat may suffer internal bleeding while boating gear such as propellers, bowsprits and line may damage or entangle whales, Hayes said.

The whales primarily feed on anchovies and other fish that travel in schools into the bay, according to Hayes.

Whales sometimes go without eating for long periods of time and consume in large quantities when prey is available, according to Hayes.

People who interfere with a whale's feeding can harm the animal's sustenance, Hayes said.

Anyone operating a boat should disengage its drive system if approached by a whale and drift until the mammal leaves.

Humpback whales are protected under federal law and those who injure or harass the endangered species will be fined.

© Copyright 2014 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published broadcast, rewritten or redistributed

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