03-30-2016: Killer Whales, Humpbacks, Common Dolphins, Pacific White-sided Dolphins, Elephant Seal, Beautiful Marine Conditions

Moss Landing Whale Watching

Lunge-feeding humpbacks just outside of the Moss Landing Harbor. Photo: Mike Sabina, www.sanctuarycruises.com 03-27-2016

Today was exceptional. We were on about 100 or so ┬ácommon dolphins right out the gate. I could see the dolphin-water splash pattern before we even left the harbor. So that’s always nice. Often this time of year we’re going for an hour or more before we find any whales or dolphins. Not the case from late April through November. We often have humpback whales just outside the Moss Landing Harbor. In the Summer, people can sometimes get good looks right from the jetty rocks at the Moss Landing Harbor entrance.

Moss Landing Whale Watching

Orcas showed up about six miles to the southwest of Moss Landing. Photo: Michael Sack, 03-30-2016.

Just as we left the harbor, we also had heard reports of a couple of humpback whales about four miles from our position so we made a course and were on the scene in about 25 minutes. We had great looks at these two humpbacks. But they did seem to be feeding deep. But they were consistent on their course and a 3-5 minute dive cycle. So that was nice.

Moss Landing Whale Watching

We stumbled across this young male elephant seal as we were making our way in. Photo: Michael Sack, 03-30-2016.

Then we heard reports of orcas about another four-miles to the West and heading our way. So we had one more look at the humpbacks and made a course for the black and whites. They passed up an elephant seal. That’s usually one of their favored meals. So they must have eaten recently. After we got on them, they were pretty much on a northbound course in travel formation. That’s when the whole pod is in a line next to each other and they are just moving along at five to ten knots. So that’s what they were doing. So we watched them for about 45-minutes before decided to let them go on their way heading up the coast. We came across at least another 6-8 whales on the way in. They were mostly in groups of two.

Moss Landing Cormrant

We seem to be settling into a consistent Spring cycle over the last week or so. That means calm, decent sea conditions in the morning and howling winds and unruly seas in the afternoon. Sunny all day long. This is when our “upwelling” starts to kick into high gear. We are starting to see some shallow phyto-plankton layers.


The humpbacks have been pretty well scattered over the last couple of days. We’ve had a few days this week with surface lunge-feeding humpbacks. Not the rampant kind of lunge-feeding that we see closer to Summer and Fall. Often accompanied by a feeding frenzy of diving pelicans, terns, shearwaters and sea gulls. Today was more like the occasional, random lunge-feed by one animal. The anchovies have also been scattered. We haven’t seen the big dense surface patches of anchovies that we expect to see as we get closer to mid-April.


So far this winter, our humpback whale population seems to be settling back into what we would consider a “normal” migration cycle. Our humpbacks historically migrate to the warmer southern climates from January through late March to give birth and breed.

Most of the humpbacks in our population did migrate away from the Monterey Bay. to Southern Mexico and as far south as Costa Rica. I would say that we have had more whales show up in The Bay today. Hopefully they will find food and stay.

About Michael Sack

Boat Captain, Monterey Bay marine life naturalist and guide. Photographer and Videographer.
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