Featured Image Credit: Laylan Connelly
By: Laura O’Brien
When a young gray whale appeared in Newport Harbor, California, experts did not expect the juvenile to stay long. Gray whales undergo an extremely long seasonal migration, from Alaska (where they spend their summers) all the way to Baja, California (where they spend winter in warm waters). There is speculation that the young gray whale lost its way during the migration, which is why it stayed in the harbor. The Pacific Marine Mammal Center and the NOAA began trying to figure out exactly how to help the whale.
Krysta Higuchi, the spokeswoman for the Pacific Marine Mammal Center, explained that whales typically do not spend more than a few hours in a harbor. This is why experts felt the need to intervene. She also noted that this particular whale appeared to be thin, which could be an indication that it was sick.Before they could help the whale, it was important for the center to obtain more information. Higuchi elaborated by saying that “rushing in without a plan has more potential to do harm than good”. The experts wanted to know if the whale sought protection in the harbor due to an illness, or if it was simply lost.
Before they could help the whale, it was important for the center to obtain more information. Higuchi elaborated by saying that “rushing in without a plan has more potential to do harm than good”. The experts wanted to know if the whale sought protection in the harbor due to an illness, or if it was simply lost.
Justin Viezbicke works for NOAA, specifically handling animals who are sick or stranded. His team hoped to find the cause of the whale’s extended stay in the harbor. The organizations agreed that it was important not to disturb the whale unless absolutely necessary. The youngster was not showing signs of stress, so the hope was that it would find its way out of the harbor and down the coast to complete its migration.
Sometimes officials help guide whales out of harbors by creating noise using boats that cause whales to move to a quieter location. That technique is not ideal, though, because it can cause a whale to become stressed. The officials did not wish to disturb the whale, so they hoped such techniques would not be necessary.
A similar whale has now been seen further down the coast, so it appears that the whale was finally able to find its way out of the harbor and resume its voyage without stressful human intervention. This is a positive thing for the young whale, it is best to allow marine wildlife to help them when possible. The Pacific Marine Mammal Center and NOAA did a great job of monitoring the juvenile without disturbing it!