Juvenile gray whale has left Newport Beach Harbor, spotted in the Port of Los Angeles
NEWPORT BEACH — A juvenile gray whale last seen in the shallow waters of Newport Harbor’s Back Bay has left the harbor and was spotted leaving the Port of Los Angeles Wednesday, Aug. 16.
“The whale was seen near Cabrillo Beach late Wednesday,” said Justin Viezbicke, marine mammal stranding coordinator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Though Redondo Beach Harbor and Marina Del Rey Harbor are next on its path, officials are hopeful it will successfully continue its journey north. Most gray whales have completed their annual 12,000-mile West Coast migration from the lagoons of Baja and are busy feeding in the shallow waters of the Bering Sea.
The whale was spotted by Diane Alps, vice president of the Channel Island Cetacean Research Unit, in the Port of Los Angeles, near Cabrillo Marine Aquarium. The whale was in the harbor side of the breakwater moving toward the harbor entrance, she said.
“I followed her for about 30 minutes, while she swam very close to the shore and rocks, seemingly in the direction of the opening of Angels’ Gate (Cultural Center),” Alps said. “Aside from the obvious emaciation, the whale was moving well, and looked generally OK.”
The 20-foot whale — which drew attention after showing up in a lagoon near Carlsbad on Aug. 7, then in Dana Point Harbor on Aug. 8 and in Newport Beach Harbor on Aug. 10 — spent at least six days in Newport Beach.
On Tuesday, officials with the Orange County Sheriff’s Department Harbor Patrol looked for the animal after reports that the whale was at the far end of Newport Beach Harbor in the Back Bay.
The area is a shallow marshland, with sandbars and depths varying from five feet even during high tide to a 15-foot center channel. The area is about 2.5 nautical miles from the mouth of the harbor.
Sgt. Paul Ketcham became concerned that news of the whale was attracting a larger number of boaters, kayakers and stand-up paddle boarders. He spoke with Viezbicke and a representative from the Pacific Marine Mammal Center over the weekend concerned for the whale and public safety.
On Tuesday, Ketcham spent four hours looking for the whale, starting with the reserve area, but it was nowhere to be found. Reports from a woman who lives near the Balboa Bay Club and another boater, however, indicated the whale had made progress toward the mouth of the harbor by midday Tuesday.
On Wednesday, Viezbicke and other officials with the NOAA checked the harbor and found no evidence of the whale there.
Viezbicke urges kayakers, paddle-boarders and boaters to stay clear of the animal if he’s spotted again.
Alisa Schulman-Janiger, who runs the American Cetacean Society’s Los Angeles Chapter Gray Whale Census and Behavior Project at Point Vicente off the Palos Verdes Peninsula, has alerted boat captains in Redondo Beach and Marine del Rey to be on the lookout for the whale.
“It’s working its way up the coast,” she said. “It seems to be hugging the shoreline. It you’re hugging the shoreline and see an opening, it just makes sense that you would go into it.”
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