Fare-Whale to Another Great Season!

The sun has set on yet another successful whale watching season. This was the 16th year of partnership between Birch Aquarium and Flagship Cruises and Events. Despite having some challenging weather days, the diversity of whales and dolphins spotted was some of the best in years!  Below is the breakdown of our season numbers:

 

Baleen Whales Toothed Whales
Gray Whales: 621 False killer whales: 30
Humpback whales: 45 Common dolphins: 8490
Fin whales: 39 Pacific white-sided dolphins: 300
Blue whales: 13 Bottlenose dolphins: 50
Minke whales: 2 Risso’s dolphins: 20

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some whales, like Blues and Minkes, have not been seen from the Marietta during winter in multiple years. The sighting on February 3rd of the approximately 30 false killer whales was exceptionally rare and exciting. Going back five years, we have only one other unconfirmed sighting of false killer whales back in January 2014 (It had been very choppy that day and the naturalist was unable to get an absolutely positive ID before the whales swam off).

Some other highlights included female/calf pairs seen on 16 cruises, the first of which was observed on January 9th. Many lucky guests were able to get an extensive above-the-water view of large whales as they breached, or leapt with most of their bodies out of the water. While dolphins are often quite acrobatic, breaching is less common in larger whales. However, Humpback and/or Gray Whale breaches were observed on 38 cruises this season! On 6 separate cruises, we saw Mola Mola fish, or Ocean Sunfish, which are the world’s heaviest bony fish. Mola Mola can sometimes be seen from boats as they tend to bask near the surface.

There is no doubt this season was a memorable one. Be sure to join us in December 2016 to make some whale memories of your own!

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Scripps Institution of Oceanography UC San Diego