Jul 23, 2013 6:43 PM by Keli Moore, KSBY News

Avila Beach whale encounter: How to stay safe

This weekend's video of some Central Coast divers' surprising encounter with whales in Avila Beach is a reminder that when visiting the ocean we are also visiting the home of many underwater mammals.

There are both laws and guidelines to follow if you spot marine wildlife. The general guideline for whales is to stay clear at least 300 feet in order to protect yourself and not disturb the whale.

Last summer, Avila Beach had an incredible number of whale sightings, and this weekend's video is evidence that they still claim Avila as a home.

Whales, sea lions, and dolphins are commonly sighted in the area and when kayaking, boating or even swimming you might find yourself very close to ocean wildlife and wonder what to do, just like the local divers.

Though it may be tempting to seek encounters with these marine mammals, Steve McGrath, the Port San Luis Harbor manager, gave KSBY some tips about the laws and guidelines in place to protect ourselves and the animals.

"Anything that will cause an animal to change its behavior is defined as harassment and that is against the law. We don't want to see any harassment. Don't chase whales. If there are a lot of birds diving, if there is a lot of bait in the water, you might figure that there's going to be other animals interested in that bait as well," said Steve McGrath, Port San Luis Manager.

The Harbor District advices beach visitors to put safety first when venturing out into the ocean by following laws, guidelines, and common sense.

McGrath also mentioned that "after incredible whale encounters like this weekend's, the harbor sees a large rise in Avila Beach visitors and tourists."

Humpback whales stop along California's coastline on their way to and from tropical waters in Costa Rica and Mexico where they breed and calve their young.



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