|Update: Blue whales
arrived in good numbers in mid-July and are continuing to be seen
daily as of late August. For the latest sightings see our Current
the end of spring approaches, the upwelling season is in full swing. Afternoon
winds drive the nutrients from the deep ocean up to the surface to create
massive plankton blooms along with cooling ocean temperatures. This coincides
with the arrival of Humpback Whales in Monterey Bay to feed on the tremendous
number of anchovies, sardines, and krill which thrive on the plankton.
The Humpbacks arrived early in April this year and are increasing throughout
the area as they migrate to our coast from their Mexican breeding grounds.
Monterey Bay is a prime feeding area for the Humpbacks and each year we
are seeing more whales arriving earlier and staying late into fall and
early winter. These endangered whales are showing signs of recovery, now
numbering over 1,000 whales in the population which feeds off California.
fourteen years our biologists have been photo-identifying the individual
whales by the distinctive markings on the underside of their flukes. All
our photos and data are contributed to Cascadia Research, a non-profit
group based in Washington State, and are used to estimate the whales'
population and look at whale movements, associations, behavior, and migration
patterns within the North Pacific Ocean.
first Blue Whales, the largest animals on earth, should arrive sometime
in June and feed off our coast through fall. These whales feed only on
krill, a small shrimp-like animal found along the Monterey Submarine Canyon
by the millions. A single Blue Whale may eat up to 4 tons of krill each
the seasons change, several dolphin species have become abundant and frequently
sighted, the most prominent being the Pacific White-Sided Dolphins which
often feed on fish with the Humpback Whales. Over the last few weeks,
we've seen as many as 2,500 in one school. Other dolphins, such as the
Risso's Dolphins, which feed only on squid over the canyon, and Northern
Right Whale Dolphins have also frequented the Bay.
exciting in recent weeks has been our periodic Killer Whale sightings.
We just finished up our third season working with National Geographic
Television on a special about Monterey Bay, focusing on our Killer Whale
research. We worked with one of the top natural history filmmaking teams
-- Paul Atkins, Grace Atkins, Anne Marie Hammers, and Mark Atkins. The
special will feature our biologist Nancy Black and Captain Richard Ternullo,
and we will post the date when the film will be aired on National Television.
As top predators, Killer Whales often frequent our Bay during spring,
hunting for Gray Whale calves migrating north to Alaska with their mothers.
We also observed several predation events on sea lions, involving Killer
Whale calves and juveniles learning to hunt with their mothers. Killer
Whales can be sighted anytime of year in the Bay. These "transient" type
whales don't have a migration pattern and are constantly roaming the coast
with periodic visits to Monterey Bay where they often travel along the
We look forward to the summer and fall period as the diversity of mammal
and bird species is greatest, food is most abundant, and spectacular feeding
events may occur. Each day is different on the ocean and we never know
what to expect or what animals or behaviors we may encounter on our journeys
throughout Monterey Bay.