Once again it's time for whale watching in our part of the Pacific,
and we'll see this year if a young gray whale decides to alter course to
enter Newport Harbor. I have had some of my best whale watching
experiences inside the harbor. Remember whales are warmblooded,
air-breathing mammals that swim in a pod, not a school, so do not call
them, ouch, fish.
The gray whales are the most abundant species you will see off our
coast, but you might be lucky enough to spot orcas, too. Everyone should
take a boat trip out to see the whales on their migrating route, but
remember there are regulations to protect the whales from over-excited or
The federal agency responsible for protecting gray whales is the
National Marine Fisheries Service, which falls under the 1972 Marine
Mammal Protection Act. The regulations are necessary to protect the
whales from harassment, and for safe, non-disruptive whale watching. I
hope every boater follows the general rules. You can report someone you
see blatantly disregarding the regulations.
When paralleling whales within 100 yards, boaters should not operate
at speeds faster than a whale or group of whales, and boaters should
maintain a constant speed while paralleling or following whales within
100 yards. Also, boaters should do nothing to cause a whale to change
direction. In addition, for those aircraft pilots, you cannot fly lower
than 1,000 feet when within a 100-yard horizontal distance from a whale.
Swimmers and divers cannot approach whales either, and never attempt
to feed whales. The distance to right whales is increased to maintain at
least 500 yards since they are under a different category of the law.
Every boater must be considerate to the mammals because remember we are
playing in their home -- the ocean.
The deadline to submit applications to serve on the Newport Beach
Harbor Commission has passed, and on Feb. 7, seven commissioners will
take the helm of this new harbor commission. All harbors have a
commission that oversees their waterways, so it is a logical, however
late, step for Newport to create the commission.
The members will have to be residents of Newport Beach and I hope
that the applicants will have to prove qualifications for the position
rather than having a council member appoint them.
The commissioners must know the intricacies involved with managing the
multifaceted issues of this harbor and understand how to interact with
the county, state and federal governments. If the commissioners are just
political appointees, the goal of starting the commission will have
It was the exceptional knowledge of the harbor committee members that
proved so valuable when discussing issues, and that knowledge must be
present on this commission to make the correct decisions and have the
foresight for our harbor's future. I hope that former harbor committee
members are given an extra point in the selection process as they have
been serving for more than three years.
The harbor commission will have an important role in the harbor
activities such as eelgrass, dredging, charter boat permits, guest
facilities, water quality and, hopefully, a water transportation system.
I think the first order of the commission should be to establish a list
of items ranked by priority to address initially. Such a list will give
the general public time to give their input and for the commissioners to
begin the proper research into each item.
At the final meeting of the harbor committee, a list of items was read
into the final minutes for the new commission to consider. The Harbor
Element was developed by the now former Harbor Committee that outlines
our harbor and the direction that the commissioners and City Council
needs to steer toward for the benefit of the public and our most vital
I will support the commission and the decisions that the commissioners
will have to make on some very tough issues. However, I may not agree
with every decision or commissioner's individual viewpoint, but this is a
fair democratic process that, as I mentioned, was long overdue.
This will also give the public an excellent forum for addressing
issues to one city body. In the past, one may have not known which city
committee was the proper forum and may have had to address two or three
Unfortunately, I will not be serving on the commission as I live in
Costa Mesa, but see you at the meetings.
* MIKE WHITEHEAD is the Pilot's boating and harbor columnist. Send him
your harbor and marine-related thoughts and story suggestions via e-mail
to o7 Mike@BoathouseTV.comf7 or o7 http://www.BoathouseTV.comf7 .