Grey whale mothers and their newborn calves are currently making their annual migration north through the Santa Barbara Channel, providing ample opportunities to spot the massive marine mammals.
Yearly whale migration season is now at its peak, bolstering business for local whale-watching operations. Migration patterns of blue, humpback and grey whales are now overlapping, and as a result, whale-watching boats are sighting about four whales per trip.
Elijah Townsend, assistant manager at SEA Landing, an ocean recreation company, said March and April are the peak months for seeing northbound whales.
“Right now we probably average about four to five whales a trip, and that would be a common day,” Townsend said. “An average day right now we’d see a mother and a baby.”
Whale watching season typically stretches from February to May. In addition to whales, dolphin sightings are common during trips.
Santa Barbara Sailing Center’s school director, Ian Fitzgerald, said whale sightings are especially exciting.
“It’s pretty magnificent to see them up close,” Fitzgerald said. “But some recent reports have suggested that the whale population may be diminishing, so it would be good to take advantage of it while you still can.”
Whale-watching trip leaders say people come from all over the world to see the whales. Visitors from Los Angeles are common, but Townsend said he also sees plenty of out-of-state and foreign visitors.
“Name a country and I’ve had someone come through the doors,” Townsend said.
Fourth-year business economics major Simone Beede said she did not have to take a whale-watching trip to enjoy the migration.
“I’ve personally seen a mother and a baby at Campus Point, really close to shore,” Beede said.