San Francisco Bay becomes summer hot spot for whale watching

Byby Sergio Quintana KGO logo
Sunday, July 19, 2015
Whale population surging near SF Bay
The population of all types of whales is surging near San Francisco Bay.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- The Bay Area has recently become a hot spot for whale watching.

On July 4thweekend, 115 whales were counted in just one hour and this month boat tours are selling out.

A lot of Bay Area whale watchers have been enjoying up close and personal views of whales over the last few weeks. Every weekend, the Oceanic Society arranges cruises aboard the Salty Lady and this summer tourists have been getting a special treat.

Woodside resident Sandy Pethan was aboard Saturday's cruise and shared a few pictures. "It's like a firework of blowholes, you just see them everywhere," Pethan said.

This season, an unusually high concentration of whales has converged just off the coast between the Golden Gate Bridge and the Farallon Islands.

Scientists say there's a simple reason why they're here in such big numbers.

"The whales come here and eat the animal plankton. They eat small shrimps called krill and this area produces lots of them this time of year," said Peter Winch, a naturalist.

What scientists haven't figured out is why there is so much to feed on this year. Lots of anchovies and other small fish are also bringing whales close to the coast.

"We work out at the lookout point and we get to see them out the window all the time. It's about once a week lately we've had people saying, 'oh look there's whales out there.'" said San Francisco resident Rebecca Feliciano.

The Sutro Baths has become a prime place for whale spotting.

There are so many whales near San Francisco Bay this season that federal authorities have issued warnings to ship captains to slow down as they're traveling through shipping channels coming into the Golden Gate. Those channels cut right next to where whales are feeding.