California’s Monterey Bay is a whale-watching hot spot. Commercial tour boats offer awestruck viewers a degree of safety from the plunging and leaping of feeding cetaceans, but paddlers who venture too far into the fray are at the mercy of nature, as two of them found out last week.
A 50-ton humpback whale launched itself out of the water, twisted in the air and landed on the nose of a kayak that was part of a whale-watching tour off Moss Landing. The kayak capsized and the pair inside escaped unharmed.
“On our 8 a.m. Sanctuary Cruises whale tour, just outside the harbor in Moss Landing, two kayakers on a tandem kayak were almost crushed to death by a massive, near full-size humpback whale,” wrote the tour company that posted the video, shot by Sanctuary Cruises passenger Larry Plants.
“We stopped to see a large aggregation of humpbacks feeding and carrying on with random acts of hijinks. There were also a lot of kayakers right in the middle of it all. Humpbacks were coming up next to and in the middle of many kayakers. It was amusing. It's all fun and games until someone gets jumped on.”
Not everyone was amused, though.
“Anything you do to change the animal’s natural behavior is a violation of federal law,” Scott Kathey, federal enforcement and regulatory coordinator for the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, told the Santa Cruz Sentinel.
The laws don’t mandate the distance that people need to keep because whether an animal is disturbed largely depends on such factors as the species, the animal, what it is doing and where it is, Kathey said.