Humpback whale spotted in Hong Kong waters

A humpback whale is spotted swimming in Hong Kong waters March 17, 2009. REUTERS/Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department/Handout

HONG KONG (Reuters) - A large humpback whale has been spotted swimming close to Hong Kong’s famous harbor in what’s believed to be the first sighting of the species in the territory’s waters.

Local television footage showed the whale surfacing in Hong Kong’s East Lamma Channel leading into the city’s Victoria Harbour, exhaling through its blowhole and raising its tail fin.

Hong Kong authorities say it’s the first time a humpback whale has been spotted in Hong Kong waters.

“From observations it’s healthy and we’ll continue to monitor it,” Jolly Choi, a spokeswoman for the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department, said on Wednesday.

The whale, estimated to be 10 meters (33 feet) long, has already drawn a number of whale-watching boat trips since it was first spotted on Monday.

Some experts have warned the bustling harbor’s heavy maritime traffic could pose a risk to the seemingly lost mammal.

“I’m quite optimistic that it can swim back out to the open seas,” said Samuel Hung, the director of the Hong Kong Cetacean Research Project.

Reporting by James Pomfret; Editing by Paul Tait