DANA POINT, Calif. (KABC) — The Navy’s new ship, the USS Coronado, nearly slammed into a pod of gray whales off the coast of Dana Point over the weekend. A captain on a whale watching boat was tracking the pod and alerted the ship.
Captain Todd Mansur thought he had seen it all taking visitors out on the ocean for 35 years with Dana Wharf Sportfishing & Whale Watching. That’s until last Sunday afternoon.
“We were following two northbound whales and the attention was starting to go elsewhere,” said Mansur.
The attention turned to a 419-foot new Navy combat ship within a mile of Dana Point’s shore.
“After several minutes of watching it coming our way, I decided I probably needed to hail the ship,” said Mansur.
Mansur says he was surprised the Navy had not already contacted him as they had done in the past when a ship is nearby.
“They hadn’t called and they’re getting closer and closer and closer and we’re going across their bow with two whales. I had no choice. I had to call them,” he said. “I explained to them there were two whales in front of the boat and whoever is in charge of the communications said, ‘Sir, we’re going to go all stop and let the whales pass.’ They came to an immediate stop.”
Mansur says the two unharmed whales continued swimming past the huge ship. The navy also allowed Dana Wharf’s boats to cross in front.
“That was probably one of the rarities where I actually get to cut off a Navy ship and stop them dead in their tracks,” said Mansur.
The USS Coronado then turned south. It has entered San Diego, where it is scheduled to be commissioned April 5.
Why it was so close to Dana Point’s coastline is not clear, but the Navy’s website says the combat ship is designed to operate near shore.
“The ship followed proper protocol in accordance with Navy standard operating procedures when marine mammals are in vicinity of the ship. The Navy cares about the environment and marine mammals and is committed to protecting marine life by using protective measures, working with regulatory agencies, and better understanding marine mammals through research,” the Navy said in a statement.
Mansur says the USS Coronado was traveling around 3-5 mph. At that slow speed, he says he thinks the whales would have been able to make their way around the ship had it not stopped, but he’s glad they didn’t take that chance.