Not a Show. Not a Breach. Not a Surprise.
There’s another viral video showing a Humpback Whale very close to a boat.
Here it is, posted on YouTube in June of 2017. Since, it has been used as “click bait” by many news outlets with little to no consideration of the impacts of rewarding bad boater behaviour.
Media coverage includes statements like the following:
– “Humpback breaches next to boat”. This whale is not breaching. This whale is feeding; using a strategy called “lunge-feeding”.
– “Boaters in the right place at the right time“. No they are not.
– “Whale puts on a show for boaters”. Deepest of sighs – whales do not put on shows for humans in the wild. They are carrying out their lives. In this case, a whale is trying to engulf as many small schooling fish as possible. At the time of this video, the spring, whales are particularly hungry. Likely this Humpback is recently back from the breeding grounds where there is little to no food for them.
– “Whale surprises boaters”. This cannot have been a complete surprise. As you can see, their cameras were at the ready. This suggests they knew there was at least one whale in the area and likely the whale had already been feeding at the surface. There would also have been a lot of active sea birds as a clue that there was a density of fish in the area, and thereby a much increased chance of whale presence.
[Update: Via various media sources, it is confirmed that the boaters knew the whale was in the area and that they chose to move closer e.g. “Paul Ziolkowski told WABC his family and friends had been fishing for a couple of hours . . . . and saw the whale a couple of times. The whale was about 60 yards away when they decided to move a little closer to get a better view . . . ” Longer versions of the video also show they had a fishing line in the water when doing so which exposes the whale to further risk.]
It can only be hoped that the result of this video going viral leads to increased awareness of how unpredictably Humpbacks can surface; that they can be astoundingly oblivious of boats; and that they really need their space. Toothed whales like Orca have biosonar. So many boaters are not aware that baleen whales like Humpbacks do not have this biosonar. So many are not even aware that Humpback Whales are now very commonly encountered close to our coasts, having made a remarkable and very recent return from the brink of extinction.
For the sake of whale AND boater safety, please click here for the Marine Education and Research Society’s “See a Blow? Go Slow!” campaign to reduce the risk of collision with whales.
Key points include:
Another deep sigh – “The Dodo” put the following video into the world with the text “Whales Surprise Guy on Kayak. This guy had the cutest reaction when whales surprised him up close.”
No. Just no. This too could NOT have been a surprise. The birds are an indicator of the presence of feed and the whales would have surfaced previously, feeding in the area. This is a boater getting in the way of feeding whales and putting himself at risk. This is another case of the media rewarding boater bad behaviour for the sake of views / “click bait”.
5 Responses to “Not a Show. Not a Breach. Not a Surprise.”
Thank you Jackie for addressing this video and the uneducated narrative that accompanied it. Had me shaking my head in disbelief when I saw it on the news last night.
Really value this Kathy. I could absolutely not believe the Global TV coverage.
Isn’t there a Marine law about staying like 200 yards from any marine animal? Getting this close should come with a large fine. This is harassment.
Hello Patty, VERY unfortunately, in the USA – there is a 200 yard law for Killer Whales in Washington State and a 333 yard law for Humpbacks in Hawaii. Otherwise there is only the “guideline” to stay 100 m away. http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/dontfeedorharass.htm
Thank you for the information. I had always thought that this type of videos were shot “by accident”. You’ve raised a really good point. People love to see these majestic mammals and brag about them on their social media, but are we giving them space to live their lives?