When the babies are just about old enough to make the trip back to Alaskan waters, the mothers may begin bringing them closer to the small boats full of people. Sometimes, the babies will actually lean on the boat so that people are able to pet them. See the video at Petting Baby Whales in Mexico 2013. We have seen the mother lift her baby close to the boats and even push them toward the boats, and then allow herself to be touched.
Panga driver has lifted his propeller out of the water to protect the baby gray whale. Notice the flat area above the propeller to which a guard can be attached.Panga driver has lifted his propeller out of the water to protect the baby gray whale. Notice the flat area above the propeller to which a guard can be attached.
Baby gray whale with a cut on its nose likely caused by an encounter with a Panga propeller. We have seen babys with a ladder-like series of for cuts.Baby gray whale with a cut on its nose likely caused by an encounter with a Panga propeller. We have seen babys with a ladder-like series of for cuts.
The problem is that the whales often come in contact with the small boat propellers. The 2013 photograph at the right clearly shows a propeller cut on one of the babies.
This is also a problem for people–water skiers and scuba divers. The Coastguard reported that there were 35 deaths and 192 injuries associated with propellers in 2011. (Coastguard Accident Statistics)
Unnecessary and Preventable Harm
There are manufacture claims that propeller guards improve efficiency resulting in fuel savings without noticeable loss of performance. However, there are other reports indicating use of one may increase fuel costs. See a report. From my experience, recreational vehicle owners will take advantage of anything that improves performance, yet boat owners have not widely adopted their use.
I am advocating that any boat operated in close proximity, purposefully or incidentally, be required to have a propeller guard. The alternative would be strict enforcement of whale watching rules which generally require boats to remain more than 200 meters away from whales. people do not like that, and from my observations, the whales may not like it either.
Do not compare propeller hazards with danger of fast moving boats
As can be seen in “Use of propeller guards for manatee protection,” there is confusion between the benefits of propeller guards and the damage caused by a boat hitting a marine animal (or person). Not using a guard because the boat itself can do more harm does not make sense. For boaters with children in the water, the rational thing to do is to at least remove the danger of propellers with a guard. Not hitting the kid with the bow of the boat is a different discussion.