My most recent whale watching trip on Saturday, October 8th was frustrating! The weather was amazing, but as the Voyager headed out from Redondo Beach, the first dolphin we saw had its tail tangled in fishing line.
Right away we could tell something was up because the common dolphin was swimming alone and very erratically. Common dolphins almost always swim in large pods or smaller scouting groups, so spotting a loner isn’t good. And dolphins are master swimmers, so seeing a dolphin that looks like it doesn’t know how to swim is also a very bad sign.
As the common dolphin approached the boat, we realized the tail was wrapped in green fishing line and a lot of fishing line was dragging behind. I wasn’t able to get a photo of the fishing line, but if you look closely at the photo you’ll notice an indentation in the dolphin’s head, this is usually a sign of an unhealthy dolphin, it probably lost weight from not being able to swim and chase fish properly. Another naturalist on board contacted Peter Wallerstein, director of Marine Animal Rescue and he was going to try to send someone out to help the dolphin. That’s the last I heard…
Then the Voyager headed out to see blue whales lunge feeding in Santa Monica Bay and that’s when we had the chance to see crazy boat drivers. Yes, we did get to see blue whales lunge feeding, but that was spoiled by boats driving so fast into the paths of whales that it was an afternoon of near misses. The boat in the photo on the right was driving super fast straight into the area where all the action was and actually drove right over the same place where one blue whale had just surfaced.
The sailboat below also sailed crazy close to the blue whales as you can see in the picture. Several boats were in violation of the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), which requires vessels to keep a minimum distance of 100 yards from all marine mammals. Are they not aware of the MMPA or do they not care?
It’s especially frustrating to see people driving boats dangerously close to blue whales because they’re endangered! Not to mention the fact that hitting the largest animal to ever live on earth could seriously damage your boat. Boaters caught violating the MMPA can face fines of up to $10,000, or criminal prosecution with a fine of up to $100,000 or imprisonment.
So please be careful whale watching this weekend and every weekend…do what’s right and keep endangered blue whales safe by following the guidelines of the MMPA. Don’t we owe them at least that much?!