A rare and once in a life-time encounter was caught on video, showing spectators reaching out and touching a grey whale.

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) — A rare and once in a life-time encounter was caught on video, showing spectators reaching out and touching a grey whale.

They could be breaking the law.

While the whale watchers in the video were thrilled with the prospect of petting a whale in the wild, spokesperson for the Center for Biological Diversity, Steve Jones, is quite the opposite.

His initial reaction?

“Uh, kind of appalled. Especially because it’s being presented as, ‘how cute, you can pet the whales.'”

That’s because it might be illegal.

The federal Marine Mammal Protection Act requires you to be 300 feet from whales and this video, taken by Anchor Charter Boats of Fort Bragg is obviously inside that space.

Not only that, but goes on to show tourists petting a gray whale.

“You really have to put this a lot on the company. They should know better. And you can face up to a $25,000 fine or lose a vessel.”

KPIX 5 called the charter company asking about this, and owner. Captain Richard Thornton says he’s within the law because the whale came to him*

As for the tourists, maximum punishment could be a $10,000 fine and up to a year in jail.

The law enforcement arm of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association says they are aware of the situation, but can’t comment further, other than to say this is “a prime example of what not to do when you see a whale.”

“It sends a bad message,” he said. “Need them to keep their distance from us which will only happen if we keep our distance from them.”

Comments (3)
  1. Usual government stupidity. Protecting marine mammals is a worthwhile project, but we need to know the difference between a problem and not. It is even illegal in the USA to own or be in possession of ambergris which is a substance which is ‘excreted or vomited’ by whales. It is like saying, being in possession of whale feces is also illegal. Same law does not discriminate between something collected as trash as opposed to killing the animal for the substance. It literally just floats on the ocean until found by those lucky enough to know what it is and lucky enough to not be in the USA.

  2. Bill Powers says:

    Here’s why this is non-news: The whale SOUGHT OUT the encounter. The whale approached the boat. The whale hung out, rubbed on the boat, rose it’s jaw out of the water, and loitered around while people gave it a pat. NO ONE DID ANYTHING ILLEGAL and the boat and it’s customers were well within the laws governing interactions with whales.

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