June 2017 Whale Watching in Monterey Bay
Rare sightings were common in Monterey Bay during the month of June this year!
The rarest of them all was an albino Risso’s dolphin juvenile, which was sighted for the first time since 2015. We matched the mother’s dorsal fin ID to confirm it was the same albino Risso’s dolphin calf we observed in September of 2015 (the albino dolphin is estimated to be around 3 years old and is still by its mother’s side). As far as we know, this is the only known albino Risso’s dolphin in the California, Oregon and Washington stock which consists of 13,000-16,000 Risso’s dolphins.
Another rare sighting this month included a critically endangered leatherback sea turtle. We managed to spot the same turtle twice in one week in relatively the same area near Moss Landing. Leatherback sea turtles in the western Pacific population nest in the south Pacific and cross the ocean to feed on jellies in the California current. Since the ocean temperatures in Monterey Bay were affected by El Niño in 2013, we haven’t had a jelly bloom in about 3 years which eliminated leatherback turtle sightings as well. We’re hoping to spot many more this summer and fall.
Other rare sightings included a large mako shark, an incredible moon jelly bloom, and a tufted puffin.
The humpback whales were abundant near Moss Landing on a daily basis, but shifted slightly north towards the end of the month as they followed the dwindling anchovies. We’ve also observed krill further offshore in Monterey Bay which mostly humpback whales are enjoying but also the occasional blue whale and fin whale. We’ve had humpbacks surface lunge-feeding for anchovies and krill, as well as blue whales and fin whales surface lunge-feeding for krill!
Pacific white-sided dolphins, Risso’s dolphins and northern right whale dolphins have made frequent appearances as well as the elusive harbor porpoises. The recent bloom of jellies in Monterey Bay (including purple-striped, sea nettle, and moon) has also attracted many Mola molas (ocean sunfish).
Orphan male killer whale, CA171B “Fatfin” also graced us with his presence near Moss Landing Harbor at the end of the month.
What an incredible month in Monterey Bay and a great kick-off for the summer!