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Gray whale smacks surfer: Study says blue whales too slow

Blue whale © Craig Hayslip/OSU Marine Mammal Institute



Environment Updates

Surfer hit with gray whale's pectoral fin in Santa Barbara

Surfersvillage Global Surf News, 12 May, 2015 - Captain Dennis Longaberger's Sunset Kidd boat tour group was watching two mother whales nurse their babies Friday off the Santa Barbara coast when a surfer paddled out in the middle of them.

The group gasped as suddenly, Longaberger said one mother used one of her large pectoral fins to smack him away from her baby. The force brought the surfer down under water for roughly 30 seconds.

His blue soft top surfboard shot about 5 feet in the air. Finally, the surfer resurfaced, grabbing his board and paddling back to the beach, where a bystander took him to the hospital.

"He got smacked down," Longaberger said. "It wasn't like she was out to kill him. She was like 'No, you're not supposed to be over here.' This is a large animal, about 45 feet long, and her fin's got some serious power."

Blue whales and ship collisions

Cargo ship collisions with blue whales are increasing in the waters off California because whales simply don’t get out of the way in time. Instead of the more common deer-in-headlights crashes between animals and transport, blue whales do take action to get out of the way, they just do it very, very slowly.

The Journal of Endangered Species Research report used GPS technology and suction cups attached to the behemoths to track the way whales react to large ships, or any ships for that matter.

The study found that blue whales descend very slowly (too slow to get out of the way) and did not try swimming out of the way of the ships.

In most cases, researchers found the whales' movement was barely fast enough to avoid a ship.

The study represents an effort to better understand the behavior of the endangered whales, which according to the World Wildlife Fund number between 10,000 and 25,000, in hopes of finding ways to avoid fatal collisions.

Conservation groups have said at least 11 blue whales are struck annually along the U.S. West Coast.

Blue Whale, Ship Strike, Cargo Ship, Ocean Traffic, Endangered
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