Staff Blog


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Welcome to Manta Ray

The BLUE Ocean Film Festival launched last night with a crowded gallery showing of BELOW, an exhibition of the breathtaking sea life imagery by renowned photographer David Doubilet.

Most of the images on display in Monterey's Portola Plaza celebrate the cheerful and weird beauty of marine life, like this baby green turtle swimming to relative safety through azure waters to the open ocean.

But one corner of the exhibition reflects the grimmer reality facing many of the ocean's most magnificent creatures. A trio of photos shows a blood-red pool where spinner dolphins are trapped for slaughter; a fisherman cutting a live dolphin's neck; and a pile of dismembered entrails and dolphin heads.

A pair of young women merrily dancing in front of them seemed symbolic of how easy it is for us land mammals to ignore the massacre.

Later, Congressman Sam Farr took the microphone from BLUE Co-Founder Debbie Kinder to extol the importance of the festival, legislation supporting ocean conservation and "the blue revolution."

"Let's figure out how to do no harm to the ocean," he said. "We've been killing it all these years, and now we've learned how to stop it…but you have to develop people who appreciate that."

He said efforts like BLUE help "to get the photographers, the artists, the poets, the writers, to get that new necessary breed that's really going to bring together that meeting of land and water. You can't just have knowledge about one side and not about the other."

Doubilet then joined Farr at the mike, joking that he'd tried but failed to get the city of Monterey to change its name for BLUE. "It doesn't work, the song, 'It Happened in Manta Ray,'" he said.

-Kera Abraham

Friday, August 20, 2010

Whales are still huge in Monterey Bay.

For the past couple of months, the whale-huggers of the Central Coast - including Nancy Black, owner of Monterey Bay Whale Watch - have been gushing over the abundance of whales feasting on the unusually hearty krill blooms staining the Bay's surface a rusty red this summer.

Here's MBWW's marine naturalist, Lori Beraha, with a single teeny krill. A single whale, however, can eat millions of these little guys in a day.

The krill brought out the whales, and the whales brought out the whale watchers, for a Thursday morning MBWW trip, leaving from the end of Fisherman's Wharf in Monterey.

Almost 70 customers packed the boat, including a vacationing British family (whose three boys hogged the money view at the bow for four hours); a retired teacher and her seasick-prone husband, in town for their 44th wedding anniversary; and a quiet birder from Santa Cruz, who trained his binoculars on a passing black-footed albatross while everyone else gasped at a breaching humpback.

Here's a lovely photo of the species, taken on a recent whale watching trip by Alison Barratt of the Monterey Bay Aquarium:

It didn't take long for us to see our first whales: a pair of humpbacks arcing gracefully through the gray water, showing off their fingerprint-unique flukes as they dove.

By the time we reached the edge of the Monterey Submarine Canyon, the sightings had multiplied. Now we were surrounded by several pods of humps and a group of playful Risso's dolphins, which splashed along next to us for several minutes.
We even caught a glimpse of the Zeus of whales: the mighty blue, the Earth's biggest animal, measuring up to 100 feet. The pair didn't do anything fancy for us, just a gentle arc, but that arc lasted astonishingly long as their enormous slender blue-gray bodies slid through the surface of the water.

Barratt snapped this photo during a recent whale watching trip. Can anyone tell me what blue whale body part this is?

Hint: it's about 10 feet long and would put John Holmes to shame. What I'd like to know is, what is it doing sticking out of the water?

My favorite moment - and MBWW's Tony Lorenz's - is when the humps started "lunge-feeding": opening their giant mouths to take gulps of the surface krill. Both blue and humps are baleen whales, which means they don't have teeth, but rather swallow big glugs of ocean and then push the saltwater out through a filtering structure that's like a sieve in their mouths, leaving them with tasty bites of krill.

Beraha's final cetacean count for the trip:
2 blue whales
42 humpbacks
80 Risso's dolphins

Lorenz (pictured below) - whose son Matteo was on hand to help out Thursday - says MBWW's three daily tours have been full to sold out lately, a trend he expects to continue as long as the whales keep on their krill binge. Blues and humpbacks tend to stick around into late fall. 375-4658,

Bonus: Customers hungry after the voyage can snag a VIP card good for a free appetizer at the wharf's Cafe Fina, a green-certified restaurant that prides itself on ocean-friendly seafood selections.

I go for the barbecued sardines (normally $9.95) when they're in season: finger-smacking, sustainable silver slivers of the sea.