Wildlife

Jet skiers who may have harassed whales in Resurrection Bay sought by federal authorities

Federal authorities are looking for two jet skiers after receiving tips they were "pursuing and riding over-top" humpback whales in Resurrection Bay in July.

Photos posted Tuesday on a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Facebook page – alongside a plea for tips — show the jet skiers very close to surfacing whales near a rocky outcrop.

The Marine Mammal Protection Act requires people to maintain a 100-yard safety perimeter around humpback whales, said Allyson Rogers, a communications officer with NOAA's law enforcement division.

Officers are hoping to speak with the jet skiers in order to learn why they were so close to the whales in the photos, Rogers said. It's possible the whales emerged unexpectedly near the watercraft and no law was violated, she said.

"Part of the process is understanding what exactly happened," Rogers said.

NOAA's post said the agency received tips the jet skiers were pursuing and riding "over-top" the whales, considered a form of harassment under federal law. NOAA says the event occurred on July 7 near Fox Island in the bay near Seward.

Rogers said that "it's unknown if they were actually touching the whale" with their body or their watercraft.

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NOAA enforcement officer Nicolai Tykalsky said Thursday the public has been providing additional information since the post was made.

The post asks people with tips to contact Tykalsky at 907-362-1747 or nicolai.tykalsky@noaa.gov.

Humpback whales that migrate to Southcentral Alaska in summer include the distinct Mexico population listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, according to NOAA officials.

Alex DeMarban

Alex DeMarban is a longtime Alaska journalist who covers business, the oil and gas industries and general assignments. Reach him at 907-257-4317 or alex@adn.com.

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