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Stunning Up-Close Footage Of A Young Blue Whale Was Probably Illegal

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A recent video taken by standup paddler Rich German in Laguna Beach featured some stunning up-close footage of a blue whale. However, it's possible that German’s quest to obtain the footage was illegal.

Federal officials are currently trying to determine if German violated the Marine Mammal Protection Act while shooting his footage, GrindTV reports. The Marine Mammal Protection Act exists to protect animals such as the blue whale—an endangered species—from harmful human interference. This could be as simple as doing something that causes an animal to change direction, such as pursuing a mammal to film it.

Monica DeAngeles with the National Marine Fisheries Service told GrindTV, "Irresponsible human behavior can disturb animals, destroy important habitats, and even result in injury to animals and people."

Federal guidelines suggest remaining at least 100 yards away from animals whenever possible. Vessels should stay 100 yards away. Anyone closer than 100 yards from a mammal is advised to use caution. Getting within 50 yards involves a "high risk of harassing the animal."

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The federal agency has different video footage from Captain Dave’s Dolphin and Whale Safari. This footage was shot off Laguna Beach on September 17 and shows a standup paddler chasing after a young blue whale. A crewman is heard telling the paddler and a nearby kayaker that they are breaking the law. Both ignore the crewman. In some of German's footage, Captain Dave's boat is seen in the background. The agency is trying to determine if German is the paddler in the footage from Captain Dave's.

German defended himself in a lengthy post on Captain Dave’s Facebook, saying that whale watching companies are hypocritical because they're in the ocean alongside marine life all the time trying to turn a profit, while he's just a guy on a board who loves animals.

He also left a comment on his YouTube page saying he spoke with the Fish and Game Warden who told him there is no law against a non-motorized vehicle, like a board, being closer than 100 yards from an animal:

Thanks to everyone who has commented on my behalf.  And please don't take this talk of me being arrested seriously. People are making this stuff up.  I spoke to the Fish and Game Warden who personally spoke to a Federal Special Agent from the National Marine Fisheries.  There is absolutely NO LAW against someone on a motor-less vehicle being near marine life.  This all started because a whale watching boat captain on a huge boat with loud motors who (along with all the other whale boats) follows these whales around for profit decided to attack me. Anyone who knows anything about me and the ocean knows I that I love these animals and am 100% harmless.  

However, the agency doesn't want the idea to spread that it's okay to chase, pet or otherwise interact with marine wildlife. DeAngeles told GrindTV, "NMFS takes all of these reports very seriously."

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