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Save the Goldfish!

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Whale Watching

Thursday, March 17, 2016


Save the Goldfish!
A close-up photo of a gray whale's baleen!  | Tim Hammond

Even though the weather has been off and on, hot and cold, rainy and sunny, we have had some pretty fantastic sightings out on the water. Our local ocean temperature may be heating up just a little bit since we have not only been seeing our usual gray whale Northbound migration, but quite a few mola mola! These are the huge Pacific sun fish that come to the surface from the depths to thermoregulate, and have fish and gulls pick off their many parasites. These fish look like something from the cretaceous and do not have an apparent tail, or caudal fin. They are also the largest species of bony fish, while the whale shark wins in size of being the largest cartilaginous fish. If we see one of these magnificent ocean beasts floating on their sides at the surface, the boat will usually stopped to show the guests and even some of our education staff get surprised at how large these fish can be! We usually see either juveniles huddled in a group, or larger adults that weigh a few hundred pounds! The largest mola mola ever recorded weighed 2 tons!

The ACS (American Cetacean Society) LA Gray Whale Census and Behavior Project have recorded an all-time season high with the numbers of gray whales they have been seeing! At the moments they have spotted 2154 grays including northbound and southbound! Our whale watches have been seeing grays almost on the daily as well. Yet, those cow/calf pairs, mother whales with newborn babies, may be spending a little bit more time down South since we have not spotted any Northbound calves yet. Soon, we should be seeing some of those little whales. Some of the calves seemed to be born along the way this year with a total of 33 sighted. Lots of mating behavior, as mentioned in the last few blogs, seems to be a theme with many of the whale pairs sighted. It is very obvious when the gray whales change their normal migrating behavior of the slow, shallow dives 5-6 minutes long as they come up a few times, maybe show their tail, and go down for another shallow dive. During the mating behavior, the whales will stop what they were doing and roll around each other, exposing many parts of the whale we do not usually see. Sometimes, the whales even stop to play and roll around with dolphins, or get a snack from the muddy substrate below. One whale was snacking AND breaching, Erik Combs of Harbor Breeze was able to capture that!

We have a few more marine mammal photo ID interns to introduce for this season. This blog we are introducing Nicky! Nicky is not only a photo ID intern, but volunteers to work with our seals and sea lions at the Aquarium of the Pacific,

“Hi, I’m Nicky! I live with my amazing boyfriend, three dogs Loba, Hank, and Zane, our two guinea pigs, and four fish. I grew up in the Inland Empire and recently moved to Long Beach to pursue my dream of becoming a marine biologist. Growing up I spent a lot of time in and on the ocean, surfing and on boats and I knew from an early age that I was going to pursue marine biology as a career. This internship has offered me the opportunity to combine my love for the outdoors, photography and cetaceans (whales and dolphins). Since the start of the internship I have been able to witness hundreds of gray whales in their migration, humpbacks, fin whales and various species of dolphins. I’m looking forward to what I’ll see during the rest of the internship!”

You can check out some of Nicky’s awesome whale and dolphin photos below.

At this point, or maybe from the get-go, you may have been wondering about the title of this blog; there is a good reason for it! A few weeks ago, one of our educators was getting on the boat and found a bag containing two live goldfish on the dock! She quickly found a cup to keep them in and they became the newest whale watch mascots for two whole days! They got to sit at the helm and watch the whales with Captain Kevin (who appropriately named them Erik and Khiem after the deckhands). Our photo ID intern, Nicky, saw that the fishies needed a home and added them to her pet family. Happy ending!

So, if you want to see cute little goldfish, you might need to go to a local pet store, but if you want to see whales, we have those! Grays, fins, humpbacks and dolphins are on the roster of the species we have been seeing, and you have a chance to see too! So book your adventure soon before we don’t see the gray whales again until the end of the year.

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