The largest animals on the planet have been popping up visibly in Monterey Bay this week, as the crustaceans are making for good eatin’, and whale watching season is hitting its peak.
Customers of a little Monterey boat tour company called Monterey Bay Whale Watch really got their money’s worth this week. They may have expected to see a few lunging humpback whale or gray whales, a common sight this time of year. But they also got a look at a school of more than a dozen blue whales according to the Chronicle, the largest mammals on earth who have only been seen in the bay a few times over the last decade.
“Most people have never seen a blue whale,” Monterey Bay Whale Watch owner and marine biologist Nancy Black told the Chronicle. “In past years you had to be lucky. Blue whales were not very predictable. But right now they are here, and we know why.”
They know why alright, and that’s food. Namely, krill — little, shrimp-like crustacea that are the blue whales’ favorite food. The company’s social media posts show they’ve seen a few blue whales this week, but one tour saw between 10 and 20 of the blue whales, as well as two little blue whale calves that are “only” 30 or 40 feet long.
“The ocean currents push along the wall of the canyon, so there is lots of upwelling,” Black told the Chron. “That makes for lots of plankton.” The plankton attracts krill and anchovies which feed on them, which then draws the whales to feed on them, and the whole food chain of circle of life thing continues.
But there’s a recurring problem with this circle of life thing, which is the whales get hit by ships. That too has been an issue this year. A whale watching boat is likely to stop so people can enjoy the whales, a commercial boat captain is far less likely to care. If these whales can manage to steer clear of commercial boats, they can live up to 90 years old.
Image: NOAA Photo Library via Wikimedia Commons