Gray whale is growing tourist attraction

A 30-foot gray whale meandered around San Diego Bay for a second day Wednesday, becoming something of a tourist attraction as wildlife officials hoped the sea mammal would make its way back into the ocean.

The U.S. Coast Guard began receiving 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 several hours


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.

There were no reports that any vessels were getting overly close to the large cetacean or otherwise bothering it. Federal authorities urged boaters to keep at least 100 yards away from whales and aircraft to get no lower than 1,000 feet above them.

According to Joe Cordero, a marine biologist with the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service, the whale probably ventured into the bay looking for something to eat. He estimated that is most likely around a year old and hasn’t been on its own very long.

“We pretty much leave the animal alone for as long as it takes,’' Cordero said. “In other cases elsewhere in the past, we’ve learned that herding them away really isn’t a good idea.’'

Trying to chase the sea creatures out of a less-than-desirable habitat into the ocean tends to backfire, causing them stress and weakening their ability to migrate, Cordero added.

Gray whales spend summers off Alaska, then travel 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, the stragglers mix with some coming north, so it’s hard to say which way the whale in San Diego’s harbor was headed when he left the open ocean, Cordero said.

Another 30-foot gray whale has been loitering in Santa Barbara Harbor since early last week, looking thin and weak, according to the Los Angeles Times.