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Officials worry boats are getting too close to Marina del Rey whale

June 9, 2009 |  3:10 pm

Whalesight415
Authorities are appealing to curious onlookers to keep their boats away from a whale that has been swimming playfully around the Marina del Rey channel for about a week.

It is a violation of the Marine Mammal Protection Act to get within 100 yards of a large animal such as the 20-foot gray whale, said Joe Cardaro, a wildlife biologist with the National Marine Fisheries Service.

Infractions can be punished with a fine of up to $10,000 and a year in prison.

“Some people have been getting too close,” said Peter Wallerstein, founder of Marine Animal Rescue, which has been monitoring the whale. “If people want to see it, they should enjoy it from the shoreline. You can get a better view from the rocks.”

Kayak415 The U.S. Coast Guard has been broadcasting radio alerts since last week to warn approaching boats of the whale’s presence, Wallerstein said. He said the whale probably came from the Mexican coast en route to Alaska and picked the channel as a rest stop.

Gray whales are attracted to shallow waters, where they rub barnacles off their bellies and feed on small crustaceans found in sea-floor sediments. This one periodically swims out to deeper waters, but then returns to the channel.

“Maybe we’ll call it Marina,” Wallerstein said.

-- Alexandra Zavis

Photos: Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times

Check out Cusack's whale photo gallery.

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