A Whale of a Feast

Unprecedented numbers of humpback whales feed on anchovies in Monterey Bay

humback whale jump

You’re not the only one that had a full belly after Thanksgiving.

Unprecedented numbers of humpback whales have been gorging themselves for the last few months in the waters around Monterey Bay, California. An unusually high abundance of anchovies drew the hungry crowd and has kept them there far longer than normal for this time of year.

Whale watchers have been thrilled, barely able to keep pace with the feeding and breaching humpbacks everywhere they looked. Likely, the whales have all headed further south by now, down to the warm waters off Baja California. There they will join other whales—such as gray whales, which have migrated all the way from the Arctic seas—for courtship, mating and calving.

WWF supports research teams in Baja that study the whales’ health and population size, looking for evidence of threats they may have faced since they left their northern feeding grounds. Ship strikes, noise pollution and entanglement in fishing gear are all dangers faced along the whale highway.

Monterey’s epic whale gathering is a testament to decades of work to recover the world's whale populations after centuries of commercial whaling. There is, however, still so much we do not understand about whales, and this latest phenomenon highlights the need for increased research into cetaceans and their behavior.

And while Monterey Bay is a much-needed ‘good news’ story for whales, it's important to remember the threats that they will face when they leave the Bay and the need to address those threats to ensure more good news for whales in future.

Learn more about whales.