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Gray whale still swimming around Newport Harbor; enters Back Bay

The 20-foot juvenile gray whale that showed up in Newport Harbor on Thursday has extended its stay.

The whale was seen just before 9 a.m. Friday swimming in the Back Bay near the Newport Aquatic Center, according to Brian Stanley, a dispatcher with the Orange County Sheriff’s Department Harbor Patrol.

Stanley said the Harbor Patrol still doesn’t plan to try to coax the whale back into the ocean.

Officials with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration advised the Harbor Patrol to let the whale swim around on its own until it finds its way out of the harbor.

“We’re just going to let him do his thing unless he gets stuck or caught on something, then we’ll assist,” Stanley said.

Newport Coastal Adventure captain Taylor Thorne was among the first to see the whale just before noon Thursday as it cruised up the main harbor channel toward Lido Isle.

“I definitely haven’t seen one back this far in the harbor,” he said Thursday.

Gray whales, which have the longest migration of any mammal, usually spend the summer feeding on plankton in chilly Alaskan waters. In the fall, they migrate to the warmer waters off Baja California.

It’s not clear why this one stopped in Newport Beach when most of its fellow whales have already made their way through the area.

Thorne said Thursday that he suspects it’s the same whale that was seen inside Dana Point Harbor on Tuesday and that it’s trying to make its way up the coast.

hannah.fry@latimes.com

Twitter: @HannahFryTCN

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