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Thar she blows!

Southern California Whale Research Project

Connecting People, Science, and Whales

The amazing blue whale, Balaenoptera musculus, is the largest animal to ever live on earth, and we’re lucky enough to see them every summer! Every day the Aquarium of the Pacific, in partnership with Harbor Breeze Cruises and Cascadia Research Collective, goes out into the open ocean to explore and search for local wildlife. Frequent sightings of blue whales occur from June-October.

Blue whales are currently an endangered species with only 10,000 animals estimated world-wide. There are nine populations around the world with the strongest population residing off of California in the summer with an estimated 2,300 whales. Prior to whaling, the estimated total number of blue whales exceeded 300,000! Although currently whaling of blue whales is prohibited world-wide, they still face many dangers. Current threats to local blue whales include ship strike by large ships coming to the nearby Long Beach and Los Angeles Ports, as well as harassment by humans, and pollution.

In 2010 the Aquarium of the Pacific partnered with Cascadia Research Collective to aid with data collection to help better understand the movements of blue whales in our local area. We’ve been collecting data since June 2010 on your daily whale watching cruises. Our survey area for our whale watching cruises ranges between as far south as Newport Beach, California, up to areas as far north as Palos Verdes, California. The data collected includes the sighting locations of the animals observed as well as information on their behavior. Pictures are taken at the time of the sightings to aid in the identification of the whales sighted. This data is now made available for the public to explore thanks to the generous donations from Boeing Crystal Vision that funded this application.

Whale app screen shot

Web App

This web app is meant to be used as a tool to examine this data and answer scientific questions about the behaviors and locations of the blue whales. By using this app, you can compare whales from different days, months, or years. You can also filter out information based off behavioral data, such as fluking or lunge feeding. There are numerous individual whales that have been spotted multiple times since our project began and the data is filterable to follow these individuals. Other tools allow you to overlay the shipping lanes of the large ships headed into the ports and see which whales are most often in danger.

An example of using the filter boxes might be to compare whales from July 2010 to July 2011. In the filter boxes, set up a filter search for July 1- July 31, 2010. Then set up another filter box for July 1- July 31, 2011. This will bring up all of the sightings during the month of July for each year allowing you to make comparisons and come up with your own conclusions.