Whales are massive, beautiful creatures that live in the world’s oceans. They are at the top of the food chain, playing a vital role in the health of the ocean environment. It comes as no surprise that the tourists on a whale watching tour would want to try petting a whale. But is that illegal?
Gray whales are one of the biggest mammals living in the Ocean. Growing up to 50 feet long, and weighing in at 40 tons — or more — gray whales are common off the coast of Fort Bragg, CA. On February 26, 2018, a group of tourists got the surprise of their lives.
It was a rare event that they’ll remember the rest of their lives. But, is it illegal to touch one?
Is it Against the Law to Pet a Whale?
After the video surfaced on CBS SFBay Area’s channel, shows spectators reaching out to touch a gray whale that swam underneath the boat. It’s head surfaced on one side, while the tale surfaced on the other.
These mammals are enormous, and it was a wonder that the whale didn’t harm the boat or tourists. It is quite clear that whale could have done so easily, even by accident. To have a whale within touching distance is fantastic and dangerous at once.
However, conservation experts are stating that the tourists and the boat firm, Anchor Charter Boats, could have broken the law.
Is that True? According to the law, boaters are supposed to approach no closer than 300 feet away from the mammals. This was not the case on Monday. The tourists were obviously thrilled with the idea of getting to pet a whale. Unfortunately, spokesperson for the Center for Biological Diversity, Steve Jones, is quite the opposite. He had this to say about his feelings on the issue:
“Uh, kind of appalled. Especially because it’s being presented as, ‘how cute, you can pet the whales.’”
But is it really illegal to pet a whale?
Lots of footage from today’s whale on the Ambush.
Posted by Anchor Charter Boats on Saturday, February 24, 2018
You Could Be Fined — A Lot!
According to the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act, you are required to approach no closer than 300 feet from whales. If the boat is in violation of the law, both tourists and boat company could face fines. The company could be fined up to $25,000. However, the tourists could face fines of $10,000 and a year in jail. According to the NOAA website, the charter company could also lose their vessel.
However, Richard Thornton, owner of the Anchor Charter Boats had this to say when asked about the tourists petting the gray whale:
“We happen to be at the right place at the right time,” he told Lost Coast Outpost. “It came right up to the boat and was on it for like an hour and a half.”
The captain mentions that the whale “came up to him,” and that they were well within the law. The video is amazing and awe-inspiring, but the whale is still a wild animal. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association say they are aware of the situation, yet can’t comment further. They only say this is “a prime example of what not to do when you see a whale.”
“It sends a bad message,” he said. “[We] need them to keep their distance from us which will only happen if we keep our distance from them.”
Illegal or Not, That Was Rare
Though this could be an illegal offense, it is still pretty amazing to see such a large creature. Up close and personal with a whale is a once in a lifetime experience. Who wouldn’t want to reach out and touch one?
If it is illegal, I for one would not want to incur the charges possible for petting one. For more clips of this experience, visit the Facebook page for the charter company.
What is your opinion of what the tourists did? Let us know, down in the comments.
Featured image via screenshot via video via CBS SFBay Area