Wildlife on the Monterey Bay

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Whether they are just passing through or coming to feed, your chances of seeing a whale is great no matter what the season. Try going different times of the year and experience the variety of wildlife!

Recent wildlife observations on the Monterey Bay

Whales | Dolphins & Porpoises | Birds | Other Creatures


gray whale

GRAY WHALES: Grays are seen in the Monterey Bay during the winter as they pass through on their journey south to their breeding grounds in Baja California and then again on their journey north to the Bering and Chukchi seas in Alaska; a round trip of about 10,000-14,000 miles. Grays feed primarily in Alaska on creatures that live in bottom sediments, but will often opportunistically feed on mid-water prey during their migrations. Adult gray whales will get to be around 45-50 feet long and weigh between 30-40 tons. After nearly being driven to extinction due to whaling, the eastern north Pacific gray whale has made a comeback with a population of around 20,000 individuals.

Killer whale

KILLER WHALES: While referred to as whales, killer whales are technically the largest of the dolphin species. Transient killer whales that feed almost exclusively on marine mammals are seen periodically throughout the year. Transient killer whales come to the bay to hunt and will often be in numbers of 4-6. Their prey has acute senses of hearing, so staying in small groups and limiting their vocalizations is advantageous. Sometimes the killer whales are extremely elusive, and other times they interact with our boat. Killer whales are very social and inquisitive animals. Male killer whales are around 32 feet when full grown and females can reach 23 feet.

humpback whale

HUMPBACK WHALES: Humpbacks are seen in the bay spring through fall, and occasionally in the winter. These whales come to this area specifically to feed on krill and small schooling fish. A wide variety of behaviors can be observed such as traveling, foraging, surface and lunge feeding, breaching, tail lobbing and much more. Humpbacks are also the whales most likely to get friendly and curious towards the boat. The whales get to be 40-60ft long and weigh about a ton per foot. In the winter, most humpbacks travel down south off the coast of Mexico and Central America to their breeding grounds. Markings on a humpback's flukes are as unique as human finger prints and are photographed for identification.

blue whale

BLUE WHALES: The most massive creature on earth ever is seen mid-summer through the fall. The blues we see here in the northern hemisphere reach lengths of about 80 feet, where the blues in the southern hemisphere get a bit larger at around 100 feet due to the more abundant food supply in the southern ocean. Blue whales were safe from whalers for a long time due to their incredible speed; but once the exploding harpoon gun and steam and diesel powered ships were used, the blues were reduced to about 1% of their original numbers. Studies have recently shown that their numbers may be increasing. Blues feed almost exclusively on krill, a small crustacean.

Dolphins & Porpoises

northern right whale dolphin

NORTHERN RIGHT WHALE DOLPHINS: Named after Right Whales due to their lack of dorsal fins, Northern right whale dolphins are very sleek looking animals. Often very playful, these dolphins love to ride the bow of a ship. Monterey Bay has been determined the best place in the world to view these creatures.

Risson Dolphin

RISSO'S DOLPHINS: These are very distinguishable animals due the amount of scarring on their bodies caused by fighting with other Risso's and squid, their main food source. These dolphins are seen in groups from just a handful to several thousands. They are quite active and love to breach and tail slap.

Common Dolphines

COMMON DOLPHINS: Common dolphins are seen throughout the winter often in impressive numbers. They are very colorful animals and extremely fast moving.

pacific white-sided dolphins

PACIFIC WHITE-SIDED DOLPHINS: Pacific white-sided dolphins have gorgeous markings. These dolphins actively seek out ships to ride the bow wave and are often seen with Northern right whale dolphins and Risso's.

dall's porpoise

DALL'S PORPOISE: Probably the most difficult marine mammal to get a picture of! Dall's porpoise are thought to be one of the fastest cetaceans reaching 30 mph! They are black and white and are often mistaken for baby killer whales.

Other Creatures

California Sea Lion

CALIFORNIA SEA LION: Sea lions are extremely intelligent creatures with big personalities. Most of the sea lions we see in the Monterey Bay are males, as the females prefer warmer waters down south off the coast of Santa Barbara.

harbor seal

HARBOR SEAL: Harbor seals are beautiful animals ranging in color from gray to brown with spots. A lot quieter than sea lions!

sea otter

SEA OTTER: Sea otters are one of the few animal species that use tools; they will use rocks and other objects to open up clams, muscles, and other tasty treats. Sea otters are seen on practically every trip.

leatherback sea turtle

LEATHERBACK SEA TURTLE: Spotting a leatherback turtle is a rare and delightful occasion. These turtles swim from Papua, New Guinea to feed on jellies. They are extremely endangered due to pollution and egg harvesting.

mola mola

MOLA MOLA: The Mola mola is a prehistoric looking animal and is the heaviest of the bony fish. Some individuals can get over 10 feet long and weigh more than 5,000 pounds.

Other animals seen: Bottlenose dolphin, harbor porpoise, fin whales, minke whales, beaked whales, short-finned pilot whales, jellies, stellar sea lions, northern fur seals, elephant seals, blue sharks, white sharks, basking sharks, and local and migratory birds.


sooty shearwaters

SOOTY SHEARWATERS: Sooty Shearwaters follow a circular route during their migration and are seen in the Monterey Bay mostly in September and October as they are heading south. When individuals join together, they blacken the sky.

common murres

COMMON MURRES: While these birds aren't too graceful when flying, common Murres are more maneuverable underwater as they pump their wings for propulsion much like a penguin. We often see them in pairs, which consists of a father Murre with its chick.

black footed albatross

BLACK FOOTED ALBATROSS: Black footed albatross are impressive birds with a wingspan of about 7 feet. They lock their wings in place and glide from Hawaii to the California coast to feed. They are a considered a sign of good luck since they seem to be attracted to whale activity.


Blue Ocean Whale Watch offers School Trips, Corporate Adventures, Burials at Sea, and other special events along with our year-round public whale watching trips.

To Inquire about Special Trips or Charters, Call (831) 600-5103 or shoot us an email at BlueOceanWhaleWatch@gmail.com

FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions

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