LOS ANGELES (AP) – A whale that has spent the last three weeks in a Southern California marina is getting extra attention from a babysitter dispatched by the National Marine Fisheries Service to watch out for the yearling.

A fisheries agent was tasked this week with protecting the gray whale from curious onlookers in Marina del Rey and watching for signs of weakness that may prompt human intervention.

The federal agency has been waiting for the whale to leave but hasn’t made an effort to coax the 25-foot animal from its playground in the shallow marina near Los Angeles.

Joe Cordaro, a wildlife biologist with the agency, said such a plan could be too dangerous since it involves forcing the whale out by using boats.

“You never know if it’s going to be successful,” Cordaro said Thursday.

“You would be applying stress to the animal. It will use up its metabolic reserves, which it needs to make it up to Alaska.”

Cordaro said it’s uncommon for whales to stray from the group while migrating from Baja California to Alaska.

This year has been busy, however. In March, a gray entered the San Diego harbor and stayed for about three weeks, and another gray whale stayed in the Santa Barbara harbor for about the same time.

As this whale’s stay borders on three weeks, scientists worry that its chances of making it successfully to its Alaskan feeding grounds are lessening.

Each year, between seven and 12 gray whales wash up dead on the shore of their migration route, while the total number of whales in the migration is more than 20,000.

The giant animal also poses logistical problems for boaters, who are being told to stay far from it or face a fine.

Staff at Marina Del Rey Boat Rentals has been discouraging people from renting boats, especially since speeding is a common problem among novice boaters and the whale could be struck.

“All mariners are hoping it leaves,” said Gina Stagliano, an assistant manager at the rental shop. “It’s a good novelty, but this is a working harbor.”


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