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Jumping Sharks and Nursing Blues

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Animal Updates | Mammals | Education | Whale Watching

Thursday, July 28, 2016


Jumping Sharks and Nursing Blues
A breaching mako shark seen during a recent whale watch!  | Tim Hammond

Our whale watches in the last couple of weeks have been PACKED with animal sightings and surprises! Every whale watch experience is unique, and every trip has it’s own exciting moments. But recently, we have had many exciting moments because of the amount of life that has been in the water. Some trips have spotted HUGE mola mola, or Pacific sun fish, sunning themselves at the surface. These fish are super bizarre looking and are circular in shape with a scalloped tail and big lips and eyes. They are also the largest bony fish in the world, with some weighing a couple of tons! We see juvenile mola mola and big adults alike off of our coast, but we primarily see them in the summer when they come up from the cold depths to sun themselves and allow birds to clean the parasites from their scales. We have also been continuing to see humpback whales, all year round now, and some have been breaching right next to the boat. On a few trips, guests have been lucky to not only see blue whales, but also fin whales and humpback whales all in a similar area! These trips are super special to be able to see three species of baleen whales in one trip, along with the common and bottlenose dolphins who have been active and feeding quite often.

Another special sighting lately has been the same cow/calf pair of blue whales that has been seen now for two-and-a-half weeks, off and on, during our trips. At the end of June, they seemed to spend a lot of time right next to each other. But lately, they have been spending more and more time apart and sighted in different areas. On Saturday July 17, the two blues were spotted again but instead of being apart, they seemed to be doing what mother-and-child mammals do best: nurse! Since the calf was going under the mother and coming up on opposite sides several times, it seemed to be displaying nursing behavior, which is so cool! This is something that humans rarely get to witness with ANY species of whale! This may be the last few months this cow/calf pair has together before the weening begins, and this may even happen this summer off of our coast! When we do see mother and baby blue whales during the summer, we estimate the calves’ ages to be around five to six months. The theory is that these whales calve off the coast of Central America and feed off of the west coast of the US. By the time the mothers get to our area, the calves are already a few months old and soon to ween.

Ever see a shark jump out of the water? We get to see this, but not very often! On the same day as the nursing blue whale moment on July 17, a mako shark decided to breach out of the water several times and ‘wow’ the crowd! This is not something you expect to see on a whale watch, but different shark species are seen sometimes, including thresher, mako, great whites, hammerheads, and basking sharks. Because of the warm weather, the summertime up-welling of nutrients to the surface, and the El Niño event we are still in the midst of, our oceans have been super fun to explore!

I wanted to introduce Brayden, another one of our photo ID interns who has been working super diligently to complete his internship matching blue whales, collecting data on the boat, and helping with our dolphin photo ID project.

” My name is Brayden. I am currently going to be a senior psychology major at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. On top of pursuing a psychology degree, I am also a biology minor and a four-year varsity football athlete. My interest in marine science was brought about by my love for the ocean and growing up near the water. The ocean also has so many mysteries that have yet to be discovered, which is why I am also drawn to such a wonderful field of study. Ultimately, I would like to pursue a master’s degree in marine biology that will hopefully allow me to conduct research that will provide aid and insight to our oceans and the life that inhabits them. In my free time I enjoy playing video games, producing music, and snowboarding. I absolutely love cats, and one of my favorite marine animals would probably be the manatee.”

You can check out some of Brayden’s favorite moments of his internship in the photos in this weeks blog!

As you can see, it is the PERFECT time of the year to see whales, and this is probably my favorite time out of the whole year to be whale watching. Are you off for the summer or have family in town? Take them to the Aquarium of the Pacific and on a blue whale watching tour! You can purchase combo tickets here!

Thanks for reading!

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