Our marine biologists collect valuable data on the marine mammals sighted during our whale watch trips. This data collection contributes to our understanding of the behavior, ecology, distribution, and relative abundance of each species. In addition, select species of whales and dolphins are photo-identified by distinct natural markings, which provides researchers with information on movements, residency patterns, population estimates, association patterns, and life history parameters. Photo-identification work is focused on Humpback Whales, Blue Whales, Killer Whales, Pacific White-Sided Dolphins, and Risso's Dolphins.
We have several different research partners that we work with! Photo-identifications of Humpback Whales, Blue Whales, and Gray Whales are contributed to Cascadia Research Collective, a non-profit research group based in Olympia, WA. Through this photo-identification work, they have estimated the populations of these whales for California. Blue Whales are endangered and this research is critical to determine population trends and indications of possible recovery. We also work with HappyWhale, who catalogues the entire Humpback Whale population that is seen in Monterey Bay and other areas of the world. Contributing data to HappyWhale over the past several years has helped scientists keep track of the age classes of individuals, calf production rate, and distribution of the populations we see in Monterey Bay.
We have an associated nonprofit group California Killer Whale Project (CKWP) and hold the Killer Whale catalogue for California and continue to photo-identify all Killer Whales we see in Monterey Bay. We work with different partners along the west coast, including Center for Whale Research and Bay Cetology in the Seattle and British Columbia area. We document Killer Whale predatory behavior and social structure, and have documented four generations in two different families of killer whales. We have data going as far back as the early 1980s, have a new field guide, and will be publishing a catalogue and book chapter detailing predations seen in Monterey Bay in 2023. We also published a paper, along with several other co-authors, detailing Humpback Whale - Orca interactions. Please visit the CKWP website for more detailed information on our research.
We also have compiled catalogs of individually distinct Pacific White-Sided Dolphins and Risso's Dolphins, and we continue to photo-identify each species.
Our newest partnership is with Cape May Whale Watch and Research Center, along with Rudee Tours, participating in the Clean Ocean Initiative. For the last two decades, Monterey Bay Whale Watch has always picked up any marine debris seen out on our trips, particularly mylar balloons. Marine debris is detrimental to all the wildlife we see in Monterey Bay and MBWW works hard to lessen that impact in any way we can. With our new partnerships and program, we are recording data on all marine debris we collect and are using the data to educate the public on the negative impacts marine debris has on the ocean environment.
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Photographs by Nancy Black.
Last updated February 2, 2023