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Whale Harassment: Minimum $2,500 Fine

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By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on November 07, 2011 5:50 AM

Whale harassment. It exists.

Just ask the pod of Humpback whales in Santa Cruz, Calif.

These newly-arrived whales are attracting much attention. Hundreds of sightseers, kayakers and boaters have taken to the coast. Though no humans have been hurt, a lone sailboat struck a pod member near Monterey Bay.

In response, the Coast Guard is striking back.

Harass a whale? Face a minimum fine of $2,500.

Officials are concerned for the whales, and of course the public. The Humpbacks are "lunge feeding," explains biologist Don Croll. They're patrolling the waters with their jaw at a 90-degree angle, scooping up everything in their path.

Including humans.

Okay, maybe not. Whales are fairly good at avoiding humans, Croll told the San Francisco Chronicle. But a boater can easily be swept up. And no one wants to get pushed around by a whale.

For this reason, the Coast Guard will be patrolling the area. They've also warned visitors not to harass the whales in Santa Cruz.

But what is whale harassment? Legally, that is.

The federal Marine Mammal Protection Act makes it illegal to harass marine mammals, such as whales. Harassment is defined as any action that has a potential to injure a whale or disturb its natural behavioral patterns. This includes breeding, nursing, sheltering, migrating, and of course, feeding.

Persons who harass whales will be fined anywhere between $2,500 and $10,000.

That's a hefty sum for a little bit of sightseeing. So to avoid a fine for whale harassment, revelers should watch the whales in Santa Cruz from the shore. The same goes for whales found in other parts of the coastal U.S.

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