Whales are currently being sighted every day off Monterey as the southern
migration nears its peak. Weather conditions have improved and lately
days at sea have been warm and sunny. We have sighted dolphins on many
trips including Long Beaked Common Dolphins, Risso's Dolphins, Pacific
White-Sided Dolphins, and Northern Right Whale Dolphins, sometimes in
groups of over 1,000! Along with the occasional Killer Whale sighting.
Every year as winter approaches we look forward to the annual migration
of the Gray Whale. Gray Whales stream past the California coast on their
southern migration during December, January and February and head back
north again from mid-February through May. Monterey Bay is the best place
to observe these majestic giants, as they migrate close to shore here
due to the proximity of the Monterey Submarine Canyon. Since Gray Whales
prefer shallow water, they concentrate closer to shore off Monterey and
are easily visible from short boat trips or points of land such as Pt.
Lobos and along the Big Sur coast.
The deep submarine canyon that characterizes Monterey Bay is the largest
and deepest canyon along the west coast and the only one to approach within
a mile of the shore. The canyon is as deep and steep as the Grand Canyon.
Deep-water species of whales and dolphins often feed along the canyon
edge and are very accessible in a day trips from the Monterey Harbor.
Throughout the year over 26 species of whales and dolphins occur here;
some are seasonal and some are regularly seen year-round. The central
California coast is a major upwelling zone, one of only five worldwide.
A combination of northwest winds, the contour of the coastline and the
rotation of the earth provide an ideal zone for nutrients that are buried
on the bottom to become upwelled and brought to the surface where the
sun fuels intense plankton blooms. The blooms are the prime food source
for krill and fish, which provide a food source for the larger whales
such as Humpback and Blue Whales. The Blue Whale is the largest animal
to ever live on earth, reaching lengths of 100' and feeding on four tons
of krill every day.
Monterey is a unique area where large baleen whales can be seen year-round.
Humpback and Blue Whales feed on large concentrations of fish and krill
during the summer and fall and Gray Whales migrate past the coastline
during winter and spring. Gray Whales feed on small crustaceans during
the summer in the Bering Sea, then in late fall they start the longest
migration known for any mammal as they head south to their breeding areas
in Baja California. This 12,000-mile round trip migration peaks off Monterey
during January on their southbound migration and March for their northbound
The Gray Whale is a tremendous success story, as it was taken off the
endangered species list several years ago, now numbering over 18,000 individuals.
Gray Whales migrate off the coast of Monterey in pods of 2 to 10 whales
on their way to their breeding lagoons off the West Coast of Baja California.
Along Baja, there are three main lagoons that are shallow, protected inland
waters where whales have a safe place to mate and give birth to their
mothers and calves will frolic and rest during the three months they spend
in the lagoons. During March the calves will begin their long migration
north accompanied by their mothers. They will hug the coastline, traveling
closer to shore than the other Gray Whales. When they reach Monterey Bay,
they have a choice of either taking the longer nearshore route or heading
straight across the deep submarine canyon.
Whales, the only predator of the Gray Whale, congregate around Monterey
Bay during the Gray Whale cow/calf migration period and target the whales
crossing the Bay. Killer Whales are the most intelligent of all the whales
and dolphins, live in family groups and prey on marine mammals. The hunt
for Gray Whales, especially the calves, requires an amazing strategy and
cooperation by the Killer Whales. This is a time when Killer Whales have
the opportunity to feed on prey weighing thousands of pounds, rich in
blubber providing the calories they need to survive. In addition, the
Killer Whales have the opportunity to teach their young how to hunt large
whales and attacks may take up to six hours before a whale is killed.
Then many Killer Whales will gather together to feed on the carcass for
over 12 hours. This predator-prey relationship has occurred for thousands
of years and is similar to animals in an African savanna.
Bay Whale Watch offers year-round trips to observe the diversity of marine
life in Monterey Bay including the Gray Whale migration. Large schools
of dolphins, with over 1,000 animals, also feed here year-round and are
easily observed as they bow ride and frolic alongside the boat. Learn
more about Monterey Bay marine life or view
the latest daily sightings.