Santa Barbara whale lovers gathered downtown this weekend to share their music, art, stories and knowledge at the 10th annual Santa Barbara Whale Festival.
The festival took over lower State Street Saturday and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. The event included whale-watching tours, diving demonstrations, live bands, a children’s carnival and arts and crafts. On Sunday, the U.S. Coast Guard and Santa Barbara Harbor Patrol staged a sea rescue demonstration, which was followed by a rubber duck race in the harbor. Proceeds from the event went to the Santa Barbara Marine Mammal Center and the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary.
“It’s more about education than making money,” Marine sanctuary volunteer Ray Deering said.
Deering said the tours currently seek gray whales migrating through the Santa Barbara Channel.
“A lot of people don’t know that the gray whale population once got down to only 250 animals,” Deering said. “Now they’ve been on the endangered species list for so long they’ve recovered back up to 10 or 15 thousand. Before they were killed off, their population is estimated to have been around 250,000.”
Representatives from Condor Cruises were at the festival to introduce their new whale-watching boat, the Condor Express, a 75-foot-long catamaran powered by four jet engines with a cruising speed of around 30 knots.
“On this boat there’s more interaction time with the animals and less travel time,” Carrie Hladik of Condor Cruises said. “The jet engines are also beneficial because they won’t harm the animals.”