UPDATE 8/20 -- Virginia Aquarium officials say the whale was sitting on the bottom of shallow water near the Gilmerton Bridge Wednesday afternoon.
"The Stranding Response Team is waiting for high tide and they are hopeful that the whale will swim to deeper water. Officials will continue to monitor the whale’s progress until dark," they wrote in a press release.
CHESAPEAKE -- The Coast Guard is warning boaters and jet-skiers to stay away from a whale that's been spotted in the Elizabeth River.
The Virginia Aquarium Stranding Response Team has been monitoring the whale daily since Thursday, August 14. It was originally spotted by the US Coast Guard in the James River between the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel and the Monitor Merrimac Tunnel.
The 30- to 40-foot whale might be a sei whale and has been actively swim, said Mark Swingle, director of research and conservation at the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center. He believes the animal could be sick and disoriented.
The whale has been seen actively swimming in circles and laps in the Elizabeth River, most recently near the Jordan Bridge and Paradise Creek, according to the Virginia Aquarium.
Personnel from the Aquarium returned to the river Tuesday to check on the whale.
"The Virginia Marine Police were asked to provide a powerful, large boat so if the whale had to be moved safely and properl,y the Stranding team had the support they needed," spokeswoman Laurie Naismith told WVEC.com. "The Marine Police are very pleased to be a part of this very unique team effort.”
Under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, it is illegal to harass or approach marine mammals such as whales.
Coast Guard Station Portsmouth crewmembers, which also went to check on the whale, said Tuesday it's assisting the NOAA Stranding Team and the Virginia Aquarium Marine Science Center by spreading the word about the whale to boaters via a Safety Marine Information Broadcast.
USCG MARINE BROADCAST:
THE COAST GUARD HAS RECEIVED A REPORT OF A 35-45FT WHALE IN THE SOUTHERN BRANCH OF THE ELIZABETH RIVER IVO JORDAN BRIDGE AND PARADISE CREEK.
ALL MARINERS ARE REQUESTED TO STAY CLEAR OF AND DO NOT FEED THE WHALE.
REPORT ALL SIGHTINGS TO THE VIRGINIA AQUARIUM AT (757) 385-7575 OR CONTACT COAST GUARD SECTOR HAMPTON ROADS ON CHANNEL 16.
INJURING OR HARRASING A MARINE MAMMAL IS A VIOLATION OF THE MARINE MAMMAL PROTECTION ACT AND CARRIES A CIVIL AND CRIMINAL FINE OF UP TO $50,000.