Federal marine authorities are hoping that the 30-foot gray whale now making a rare appearance in San Diego Bay -- possibly in a search for food -- will eventually find its own way back into open waters.
The U.S. Coast Guard began getting reports about a whale in the harbor about 1 p.m. Tuesday, said Lt. Josh Nelson, a USCG public information officer. "It's just hanging out and swimming around,'' Nelson said.
The federal maritime agency notified U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service personnel in Long Beach, who requested a follow-up call if the sea mammal doesn't return to the ocean within a few days, according to Nelson.
"We just want to stay away from it, and we hope that boaters keep their
distance too,'' he said.
Federal law requires boaters to keep at least 100 feet away and aircraft to get no nearer than 1,000 feet.
Joe Cordero, a marine biologist with the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service, told The San Diego Union-Tribune that the whale probably came into the bay looking for something to eat.
"Gray whales historically come into shallow water and they're bottom-feeders, so they'll come into the bay looking for food,'' he told the newspaper.
Cordero estimates the whale is most likely a year old and hasn't been on
its own very long, the Union-Tribune reported.
Gray whales generally spend the summer in Alaskan waters and then migrate south to the protected lagoons of Baja California, where their calves are born during winter months. The trip covers about 10,000 to 12,000 miles.
"Usually around the end of February, you have the last remaining ones coming (south) and you have some coming north,'' Cordero told the Union- Tribune. "So at this point, it's hard to say which way this guy was going.''