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Scientists Track Gray Whale Migration From Big Sur Bluffs After 7 Year Hiatus

Taken from “A Winter’s Watch: Scientists Track Whale Migration From Big Sur Bluffs” from the Montery Herald website

The census in 2011 estimated the current population to be about 21,000, a number that’s been relatively stable for the past 10 years.

“This year, we want to see a stable population or one that’s slightly increasing,” Weller said.

That would be good news for whale watchers, too. Richard Ternullo, the owner of Monterey Bay Whale Watch, said business has been solid so far this season.

“The weather’s been good, so people have been out,” Ternullo said. “It seems like a pretty normal migration in terms of the number. Maybe it was a little bit early as far as when we started seeing the migrants.”

Detecting shifts in when the whales start arriving — and especially when the peak number goes by — is a secondary goal of the census.

“Every given year it might shift a little bit forward, or a little backward,” Weller said.

Whale biologists are also interested in whether the declining levels of Arctic sea ice will affect migration patterns.

“The receding ice is not necessarily a negative thing in the gray whale case,” Weller said.

That’s because it opens up new habitats, and no one is sure what effects this will have on gray whale behavior. But the biggest mystery is still why the whales migrate at all.

“Some people believe they migrate away from areas where calves are in danger,” Weller said, adding that this is his favored explanation.

Another explanation holds that the demands of giving birth require the whale moms to be in warmer waters for energetic reasons. These questions will require many future studies to decide.

For now, this year’s count is still up in the air.

“We won’t really know until the whole thing is over,” Weller said


Taken in part from this article:

San Diego Whale Watching Report through 4/2/14-Last month of Gray Whale Watching!

March 27– April 02

Date Morning Cruise Afternoon Cruise Notes
4/02/2014 *whalechecks *whalechecks In morning some rain then in afternoon cool and clear
4/01/2014 200+ common dolphins *whalechecks Two elusive minke whales were spotted plus 1 northbound gray whale in morning tripAfternoon trip was a very good show with 20-40 bottlenose dolphins in a feeding frenzy
3/31/2014 4 gray whales and 1500 common dolphins 3 gray whales Great show for both trips during rough seas
3/30/2014 1000 common dolphins. *whalechecks Cancelled due to rough seas Under warm clear light breeze the common dolphins gave a good show for our guests. Our guests gave lots of compliments on narration of migrating whales
3/29/2014 7 gray whales, 1 minke 3000 common dolphins Whales in the distance were spotted plus guest were treated to ever popular common dolphins show
3/28/2014 *whalechecks Fin whale, 50 bottlenose dolphins Sighting of a rare Fin Whale swimming around the boat for about 45-60 minutes. The Fin Whale was possibly a blue-fin hybrid juvenile. Fins and blue whales have been known to interbreed. We also saw 50 bottlenose dolphins swimming near the bow.
3/27/2014 *whalechecks *whalechecks Weather conditions in San Diego included rain and wind that causes rough sea conditions for whale watching. Our Captain made good effort to seek out the whales for our guests. Highlight was seeing about 30 false killer whales.The weather conditions remaining the same, guests did see 1 whale in distance and a good look at elephant seal plus 20 white sided dolphins on the trip out.


Visit our Whale Report and Blog:

Thank you to Janet Morris, Director of Volunteers from the Natural History Museum who leads the valiant effort to recruit and train the fantastic volunteer “whalers” who interact with our guest everyday on the Whale and Dolphin Watching Cruises. Visit theNat at

Brian Slaughters kids on WWWhalers from the Nat <

whalers group from 2014 whalers whalers-group-from-2014

*If whale are not sighted during cruise you will receive a “whale check” good for another Whale and Dolphin Watching Adventure or Harbor Cruise

The Inspiration Behind new local Book about Whale Watching in San Diego


Breaching Gray Whale Photo taken by Michael Roeder on 2/19/14 from Hornblower Cruises Whale Watching.

Michael Roeder and Scotty Schmidt have been aboard Hornblower’s Whale Watching Cruises more often than some of the actual Hornblower Captains! Why? Michael and Scotty just finished a book called “1000 Whales in a Year”. The book is for sale on Hornblower’s Whale Watching Cruises and on almost any given day you can get an autograph from the authors Mike and Scotty and even a photo with the pair of dedicated whale enthusiasts. The book’s goal was to to find one thousand whales in one year on the Pacific Ocean near San Diego. However there is so much more that inspired the book: a band of kindred spirits, people with a common bond(whales in the wild) and each in need of a little special healing.

Scotty says: I’m a US Army combat veteran who experienced many difficulties adjusting back to civilian life. I found myself searching for something for a long time, but I didn’t know what. Now I still find myself searching for something……whales, but they are something I can find! Scotty Schmidt.

Mike says: I’d recently retired and being a bit reclusive anyway, was looking for something social not too threatening. Kim and Dennis invite us on a whale watching cruise, my wife and I bought a season pass on Hornblower, we met Scotty and we joined the gang.* “…our motivation for spending all this time on the water in one year. After some calculations, we found we had spent an average of one hour per whale. Yes its obsessive behavior, we know. We are obsessive people. Whale watching is addictive and if you have an additive personality type you may be drawn in too. We never intended to spend 1000 hours watching, see 1000 whales or write this 100 page book- these evolved as our relationships with each other and the whales, grew.” Michael Roeder

Kim says: We are enthusiastic boaters, with extensive sailing experience as well as having worked with the US Navy and US Coast Guard Auxiliary.  We’ve spent lots of time near or on the water.  When we first started whale watching in February 2013, we saw it as just another opportunity to be on the water.  We were also looking for some peace and quiet after the loss of a service member in our family.   Seeing these majestic whales so close to our shore had an unbelievable positive impact to our life.  We met Scotty on the Hornblower and found a kindred soul.  The whales pulled us up to the rail, brought us out of ourselves and together as friends on a common quest.   Kim and Dennis Usrey.

The book also has an electronic version on the Apple iBook store in case you’d like to get your hands on this gem. Visit their website.


* Yes you too can “join the gang”. Purchase a season whale watching pass on Hornblower Cruises, for unlimited whale watching cruises during the Gray Whale Watching season from Dec. to April. We look forward to seeing you onboard too!

Learn about and track the Gray Whale Migration

Gray Whale Breach

Gray Whale Breach

It’s whale watching season for the Gray Whales in San Diego and the height of the season is this Saturday’s San Diego Big Bay Whale Festival.  In honor of this weekend’s festival, we wanted to share some really cool websites we’ve found about the Gray Whales.

The first one is Journey North’s Gray Whale Sightings.  Journey North is an organization that:

citizen scientists in a global study of wildlife migration and seasonal change. K-12 students share their own field observations with classmates across North America. They track the coming of spring through the migration patterns of monarch butterflies, robinshummingbirdswhooping cranesgray whalesbald eagles— and other birds and mammals; the budding of plants; changing sunlight; and other natural events.

We like their Gray Whale Sightings Map in particular.  Observation posts are highlighted with a yellow stars and actual sightings are denoted with a blue circle.

The second website we really like is National Geographic’s page about the Gray Whales.  National Geographic shares a lot of great information about the species of whales.  They include a map of common areas where gray whales can be found and fast facts about Gray Whales.  Some of the fast facts include:



Size:40 to 50 ft (12.2 to 15.3 m)

Weight:30 to 40 tons (27,200 to 36,300 kg)

Group name:Pod

Protection status:Recovered

Size relative to a bus:

Illustration: Gray whale compared with bus

The third website we enjoy is the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration – Alaska Fisheries Science Center.  NOAA presents a great FAQ about the gray whales, including some very interesting tidbits:

Gray whales used to be known as “devilfish” because they fiercely defend themselves and their calves against whalers.

There are now about 18,000 gray whales in the Eastern Pacific stock.   The eastern North Pacific stock of gray whales was removed from the endangered species list in 1994, however they are protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

The gray whale Western Pacific stock was believed to be extinct until 1925 when a few gray whales were seen off the coast of Siberia. There are still very few sightings of these whales

The last site that we love is our friends and partners at the San Diego Natural History Museum.  They have some great video, which you can also watch below:


To learn more about the Gray Whales, visit the San Diego Big Bay Whale Festival on Saturday, January 25 at the Port Pavilion on the Broadway Pier.