Support for LAist comes from
We Explain L.A.
Stay Connected

Share This

This is an archival story that predates current editorial management.

This archival content was written, edited, and published prior to LAist's acquisition by its current owner, Southern California Public Radio ("SCPR"). Content, such as language choice and subject matter, in archival articles therefore may not align with SCPR's current editorial standards. To learn more about those standards and why we make this distinction, please click here.


Don't Try To Take Selfies With Orca Whales At Huntington Beach (Or Anywhere)

An orca whale breaching in Morro Bay, CA, 2014. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)
Before you
Dear reader, we're asking you to help us keep local news available for all. Your tax-deductible financial support keeps our stories free to read, instead of hidden behind paywalls. We believe when reliable local reporting is widely available, the entire community benefits. Thank you for investing in your neighborhood.

Orca whales in the wild are some of nature's most peaceful creatures, as we all learned from the 2013 documentary Blackfish. Sadly, humans possess not an ounce of orcas' inherent chill, as three people proved off the coast of Huntington Beach last Friday when they allegedly got too close to an orca pod in a quest for selfies.

Three people on two personal watercrafts approached the pod of 10 orcas and attempted to take photos and videos, breaking what local whale expert Alisa Schulman-Janiger called "basic etiquette," the Orange County Register reports.

Schulman-Janiger, a researcher with the California Killer Whale Project, was on the scene and said she saw the trio of people "chasing the whales for photos and getting too close," according to the OC Register article. LAist reached out to NOAA for comment, but did not immediately hear back.

One member of the trio, Bryce Trevett, denied that he and his friends got too close to the whales, telling the OC Register that the long lens they used to take photos made it look like the whales were directly underneath their watercraft. Trevett claims the orcas were at least 20 feet away from his group's watercraft, which is still significantly closer than the 100-yard distance that the NOAA recommends for respecting for large whales in the wild. The NOAA also rules it illegal to harass marine mammals in the wild.

Support for LAist comes from

Trevett shared his group's side of the orca encounter in a Facebook post and video on Monday, writing, "We tried to respectfully stay behind them and not get in their direction of travel, however they were extremely curious about us and playful and would actually turn around and come back towards us, jumping and playing in our wakes, and diving right underneath the jet skis doing somersaults and swimming on their backs."

Trevett, who gained viral fame last year for untangling a sea turtle trapped in a balloon off the coast of Palos Verdes, told the OC Register that he and his friends have "been working with wildlife our entire lives" and "would totally have backed off" if the Huntington Beach orcas seemed scared. Trevett also insisted that he and his friends are "not some yahoos out there trying to get selfies."

Nonetheless, this story serves as a good reminder to all of us; maybe just leave whales alone in the wild, no matter how good of a Tinder profile picture you might get out of a photo op with them. Didn't we learn our lesson from that baby dolphin in Spain who died after being passed around for selfies by tourists?