Endanged Blue Whales sighted on Farallon Islands Cruise

Press Release Date: 
Sep 21 2009

Endangered Blue Whales seen on Oceanic Society’s Farallon Islands Nature Cruise San Francisco, CA. Two blue whales, the largest animals ever to inhabit the earth, were seen feeding near the Farallon Islands to the wonderment of the whale watchers participating in the June 21st Oceanic Society's Farallon Islands Nature Cruise. Blue whales are endangered and have still not recovered their world-wide population numbers despite a moratorium on commercial hunting of all large whales since 1986.

While the future of the species will be debated this week at the International Whaling Commission in Santiago, Chile, whale watchers can learn more about blue whales and other marine mammals during the Society’s educational journeys to the Gulf of the Farallones. Blue whales reach an average of 80 feet in length and can weigh up to 300,000 lbs. Scientists estimate pre-whaling populations at perhaps 228,000-300,000 blue whales. In the 1970’s the population was down to less than 10,000. There are indications blue whales may be starting to recover. The California blue whale population is estimated at 2,300, making it one of the largest single populations remaining in the world, and local waters one of the best places to see blue whales.

Blue whale researcher John Calambokidis of Cascadia Research states that “although our world to date has been spared from the loss of the largest species ever to have lived, we need to also save the krill and save the ocean since saving habitats is inexorably linked to saving the species.” "This will hopefully be a good year for blue whales in the Gulf of the Farallones with the reports of higher krill abundance this year compared to previous years.”

Other whale sightings on Saturday’s cruise included 14 humpback whales, and a gray whale near the Farallon Islands. Participants also encountered California sea lions, Steller sea lions and harbor seals. Bird sightings included pelicans, cormorants, oystercatchers, gulls, murres, auklets, guillemots, and tufted puffins.

This is the 25th year the non-profit Oceanic Society has offered naturalist-led nature cruises to the Farallon Islands offering participants the opportunity to see this amazing marine life. An Oceanic Society expert naturalist leads every cruise and helps to spot wildlife and provides information about the natural and human history of the Farallones, and the surrounding marine environment. On select cruises, participants also benefit from the expertise of whale researchers from Cascadia who utilize the cruises as a research platform.

The Farallon Islands are among the most nutrient-rich areas in the world, thus providing a major feeding habitat for an enormous variety of marine life. In addition to being the seasonal feeding area for whales, the Farallon Islands National Wildlife Refuge is the largest seabird rookery in the eastern Pacific south of Alaska.

Trips depart from the Marina Green in San Francisco every Saturday and Sunday June through November. They leave at 8:00 am and last approximately eight hours. The costs is $105 per person. Reservations are on a first-come basis and can be made by calling (415) 474-3385, or visiting the Oceanic Society's new web site www.oceanicsociety.org for on-line reservations.

Founded in 1969, The Oceanic Society is a non-profit marine conservation organization ### Quarters 35 N Fort Mason, San Francisco, CA 94123 415/441-1106

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