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Blue Whale Season Is Upon Us!

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Animal Updates | Mammals | Whale Watching

Thursday, July 06, 2017

James S.

Blue whale right side and dorsal fin - popup
Blue whale right side and dorsal fin Aquarium of the Pacific

Hello everyone! It’s been a great couple of weeks on the water, and I hope you all had a wonderful Independence Day. There have been a lot of sightings of fin and blue whales. Our interns are working very hard to photograph and identify the blue whales. If you would like to take a look at some of the whales we’ve seen in the past check out our whale app here. You can select from a few whale species and time frames to examine where the whales are being spotted and when we’ve seen them. If you click on the location bubbles you can check out the pictures of the whales too.

If you’ve looked through pictures already you’ll notice I included an odd photo, the whale feces picture. Whale feces, while smelly, is actually an amazing ecological thing. The nutrient level that is put back into the ocean by whale feces is much higher than I’m sure the average person would imagine. If you look at the whales and where they are getting their food, they dive to capture the shoals of krill, schools of fish, or other larger prey. It’s this diving to collect their prey that helps recycle nitrogen. When the whales poop at the surface, the microplankton near the surface utilizes these nutrients being rereleased into the ecosystem. So the whales are helping pull nitrogen from the depths as they feed up to the surface allowing the food web to continue to flourish.

There’s also a lot that scientists try to learn from the waste of whales. There’s even one scientist that brings a dog out on the boats to sniff out the feces so they can find and collect the whale feces. Doesn’t seem glamorous, but we can learn what species the whales are eating by doing DNA tests, learning what the natural gut bacteria is from the whales, possibly hormone levels, and numerous other factors we can examine just from their waste.

The blue whale season is in full swing, our whale watch times have shifted to 12:00 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. every day. July and August are the months where we have the highest numbers of sightings historically. So come on down to Long Beach and grab your combo tickets to Harbor Breeze Cruises and the Aquarium of the Pacific. Get out on the water to see these magnificent animals and then come in side to learn more about them at our “Whales: Voices in the Sea” exhibit.

See you out on the water!