WEST SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) _ Biologists hope the salty waters and ample food of the Pacific Ocean will speed the recovery of two humpback whales injured on a 90-mile detour up the Sacramento River.
To get them to the ocean, the biologists plan to play the underwater sounds of humpbacks from a boat as the tide goes out, said researchers with the Sausalito-based Marine Mammal Center, which has taken the lead on the attempted rescue.
More boats will line the channel to try to prevent them from turning around, they said.
``Plan B is herding the animals out using a platoon of boats,'' said Frances Gulland, director of veterinary science at the center.
The injuries to the whales, believed to be a mother and calf, were apparently caused by a boat propeller. They were diagnosed using photos taken Wednesday in the Port of Sacramento.
Shipping and small boat traffic were halted in the basin, which is 30 feet deep and 200 feet wide. One freighter remained docked at the port, known primarily as an export terminal for California rice.
The whales, first spotted Sunday in the lower Sacramento River, likely were on their northward migration from Mexico up the California coast when they were sidetracked, biologists said. Because they are at the end of their hibernation season, they have less blubber to rely on for fuel than they would later in the summer or fall, Gulland said.
It's unusual for whales to reach so far into the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, but it has happened before. In 1985, a humpback was escorted back to sea after swimming in the delta for nearly a month.