Mary RodriguezWith a newsletter that’s been around for twenty years, a special issue needs to have a real mission. In June this year, we celebrate the twentieth anniversary of ACS Monterey Bay as a chapter. The mission of this issue is to honor the woman we called our “founding mother,” Mary Rodriguez, who passed away last August. Mary had represented the Hawaii chapter of ACS at national board meetings and had the idea for a Monterey chapter. She suggested its formation to a group of local folks in 1980: Alan and Sheila Baldridge, Randy and Gail Puckett, Alison Tomlin, Jud Vandevere, Tom Williams, and Steve Webster. Randy was the first chapter president and Tom was vice-president. Alison was treasurer and various people served as secretary. Mary wrote the first newsletter issues, served as the first program chairman and was a devoted board member until cancer weakened her. Mary’s friend Hazel Sayers, from ACS National Headquarters, was speaker at the first meeting. Mary worked on most committees, folded newsletters, overcame people’s objections about running for chapter offices, wore her yellow Beachwatch jacket with pride, and asked the most pointed questions at all the right times. A writer with great facility for words and wit, both in written and spoken language, she influenced all facets of the organization; she had a knack for expressing her reflections and persuasions in a pertinent, amusing manner.

The method, then, to achieve the issue’s mission is to elaborate on activities of the chapter that Mary especially enjoyed. These, of course, form a wide-angle lens on the wealth of marine diversity in the Monterey region. Because of the resourceful people who have shaped the chapter all these years, we have been able to look through that lens with clarity and understanding. Species of cetaceans seen locally present a source of amazement and inspiration to anyone with an interest in marine mammals. The monthly meetings draw on an impressive body of local work concerning these animals and their world. The cash awards (grants) to students for their degree projects are one entre into the area’s research (see “The ACSMB Grants and Common Dolphin”). The children’s whale watch experience was the essence of an interest in creating a way for cetaceans to touch peoples’ lives (see “The Whales for Kids Program”). The bi-annual whale watches continue that opportunity in another way – and support the chapter’s finances. Mary herself was an avid watcher of whales, and of other people watching whales (see “Blue Whales for the First Time”). Volunteers with beached marine mammals had another unique experience through Beachwatch, Seal Watch, and now Bay Net (see “Volunteers Don’t Work for Nothing,”). Setting the stage is a continual alertness to events and studies that revise known facts about marine mammals (see “The Whale Year”, “Blue Whales in Central California”, and “Gray Whales and Humpbacks”).

The special issue has had enthusiastic support from the ACS Monterey Bay board and busy people gladly wrote the articles. Alan and Sheila Baldridge have given the necessary depth to both the plans and the information. Evelyn Starr, our web master, gave her skills to the layout. She also has made sure all the articles and information from this special issue appear, sometimes at greater length, on the chapter’s web site.

Illustrations were chosen from the archive of Soundings, joyfully exhibiting again the work of Robert Western, Milos Radakovich and Robin Lee Makowski. If the issue successfully represents some of the marine wonders of Monterey, and the work of our founder and members, it must also be a prediction of another twenty years of meaningful work and high enjoyment. Happy Birthday, ACS Monterey Bay! MRFluke
– Esta Lee Albright, issue editor
BobWesternAlan Baldridge wrote a book with John Davis called The Bird Year. It described the annual passing of the seasons by the presence or behavior of the avian community during a calendar year. By observing what birds were present and their behaviors it is possible to gauge the time of year to within a few weeks, on nature’s timetable. It is also possible to extend this premise to marine mammals. There is one very different concept to consider before one can appreciate the simile. Instead of thinking of the year in the traditional four divisions of winter, spring, summer, fall, the marine seasons fall into three seasons: Upwelling, Oceanic, and Davidson. Each can be characterized by the presence or behavior of the marine mammal community.

DECEMBER. The Davidson Current season has started about one month earlier with a decline in abundant food resources due to strong southerly gales. Gray whales make their appearance as they migrate southward to lagoons in Mexico to calve. Dolphins form large aggregations that may indicate localized food resources. These include Pacific White-sided Dolphin, Risso’s Dolphin and Northern Right Whale Dolphin. During warm water years, Long-beaked Common Dolphin are abundant. Northern Elephant Seals come ashore to breed.

JANUARY. Southbound Gray Whale migration peaks by mid-month. Some calves are born near Monterey Bay before reaching Mexican waters. Killer Whales seem to shadow this migration, possibly feeding on early births of calves. Dolphins still form large groups. Northern Elephant Seals continue to put on a show of pupping and mating.

FEBRUARY. Gray Whales may be seen migrating in either direction. This is also the time to see dolphins. Pacific White-sided and Northern Right Whale Dolphins continue winter behavior.

MARCH. A sharp change in ocean conditions, the Upwelling Period. Strong northwesterly gales begin the phenomenon of upwelling. During this period, nutrients are transported to the ocean surface and, being exposed to longer day length, provide an opportunity for phytoplankton to proliferate. Gray Whales peak in northbound migration. Dolphins disperse into smaller groups as food becomes more readily available. Long-beaked Common Dolphin usually retreat southward.

APRIL. Humpback Whales return. The first mother/calf Gray Whales are seen. Killer Whales are present, closely associated with this movement. Resident Harbor Seals begin giving birth at secluded locations along the coast. Northern Elephant Seals return to molt.

MAY. Humpback Whales are seen often. Reports of Gray Whale/Killer Whale interactions increase as mother/calf pairs migrate north. The first Minke Whales appear. Male California Sea Lions begin to migrate south to breed.

JUNE. Blue Whales begin to be seen. Humpback Whales are common. Dolphins are sporadic. California Sea Lions are nearly absent. Harbor Seal pups are weaned.

JULY. Blue and Humpback Whales are seen often. Dolphins remain unpredictable. During this period, Harbor and Dall’s Porpoise calves may be visible.

AUGUST. Northwesterly winds begin to slacken and warmer water invades the near coast, signaling the onset of the Oceanic season. Blue and Humpback Whales may disperse offshore, but are still frequently seen. Fin Whales are seen on an unpredictable basis. Dolphins are encountered regularly. Baird’s and Cuvier’s Beaked Whales begin to be seen. Male California Sea Lions return, while females remain to the south. On warm years, Long-beaked Common Dolphin appear. Blue Sharks and Ocean Sunfish are frequently seen.

SEPTEMBER. Humpback and Blue Whales can become irregular as forage becomes localized. Dolphins are present in large groups.

OCTOBER. Humpback and Blue Whales begin to drift southward in migration.

NOVEMBER. The first strong southerly gales begin the Davidson season and food resources are very localized. Blue and Humpback Whales depart south. Dolphins can still be numerous, forming large groups. Some Bottlenose Dolphin may appear to join resident groups.

When I met my future husband, Leon Oliver, he was captain of one of the Monterey boats used for whale watching by Monterey Sport Fishing. The company, Leon and his crew already had donated proceeds from several annual whale watch trips to the Monterey chapter of ACS. Being courted aboard a fishing and whale watch boat must be one of the more unusual ways to decide to marry someone, but it’s also a good way to learn about the professional side of a future husband. Even though I had grown up inland, I soon learned to help spot whales by seeing their spouts in the distance.

MakBlue2One day we had a charter of insurance salesmen that wanted to see whales. My only experience “chasing blubber,” as my Texan husband would say, was the previous winter watching the Gray Whales. This was in the middle of summer and I had no idea what was in store for me. We were fortunate to have Esta Lee Albright along as naturalist, one of Leon’s old Coast Guard buddies, Manuel, and, of course, the insurance salesmen and their wives.

I can remember it was a typical Monterey Bay foggy day and we had been driving around trying to find some sort of marine mammal. The four of us on the topdrive were getting a little desperate when I saw them … two of the biggest blows I had ever seen. After Leon and Esta Lee saw where I was pointing, they turned to me with very wide grins and said together, “Blue Whales.”

Well, at that time I didn’t know a Blue Whale from a Humpback. I was from Sacramento and obviously clueless. (Just for the record, I have since gotten a clue and can identify most of the critters out there.)

Still smiling, Leon turned the boat in the direction of the blows and pushed the throttle full speed ahead. We finally got into the area where Leon slowed the boat and tiptoed to the appropriate distance from the whales.

Now, there is a local person who is one of the many characters who frequent the wharf. I have seen him many times look out in the distance with rather intoxicated eyes and say, “It’s amazing what the eyes can see that the mind can’t.” I never knew what the samhill he was talking about until I saw those Blue Whales. I saw them come up and blow and watched their backs go on forever. I had never seen anything so big. My brain couldn’t comprehend what I was seeing. Finally, both of the whales raised their enormous heads, and, as they sounded, they threw their flukes. Again, since this was my first look at a Blue Whale, I wasn’t aware that this behavior was unusual, but it explained why Leon and Esta Lee were going crazy. And, their flukes were absolutely beautiful.

Then we waited. At this point I decided to go down on the deck. I observed several things. Most of the women had very large diamonds, which might explain the price of our premiums. I saw one rather pale woman in the lounge. Actually, pale green might be a more correct color. Everyone else was having fun. I ran back upstairs and waited. Leon had turned the engines off, so it was quiet. And we waited.

Most everyone was looking out to see where the whales were going to come up, but I was looking down at some of the rocks on several of the hands of several women on the deck below. Because I was being nosy, I saw it first. Just like a submarine, the whale came up parallel with the boat, five feet from us. The boat, Magnum Force, is seventy feet long. This whale was longer than the boat. It also looked wider. You could have had a dance with twenty people on its head! The blow was so big and so loud. None of us could speak. Our mouths were wide open. We saw the entire whale from its head to its tail. I still couldn’t get my mind to comprehend what I was looking at. It slowly swam around the bow and, as it did, we could see it was looking at us. I saw its eye! I don’t think any of us were breathing. It went around the entire bow, blew again and sounded.

With mouths still open we finally caught our breath. Then we were all talking at once. How can I describe to you what we saw? I don’t think it’s possible. Even the people down on the deck from inland places knew they had seen something special.

Time had run out and Leon turned the boat for home. As we were leaving, we got one more treat from those magnificent creatures. The whales were coming up and blowing. Riding their wakes were about a dozen Dall’s Porpoises. I’ve seen porpoises and dolphins ride a boat’s wake, but never a whale’s wake. It was unbelievable. And beautiful.

That trip was eleven years ago. I have been on many summer whale watches since, but I never tire of seeing the Blues. I would encourage anyone who hasn’t done a summer trip, such as the one for ACS Monterey Bay, to go. It will be a trip you will never forget.

bluewhlEarly shore-based whaling at Moss Landing killed only a few Blue whales, as Humpbacks were the major target between 1919-21. International whalers exploited the species on its wintering grounds offshore from Southern Baja California in the 1930’s. Followed by a respite during and following World War II, San Francisco Bay whalers from Richmond resumed whaling, taking Blues again during the 1950’s, ending in 1966.

The first Monterey Bay area sighting in recent times was in September 1970. The growth of Monterey-based fall pelagic birding, including the observing of marine mammals, was first undertaken by various Audubon Societies in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Later Debi Shearwater (Shearwater Journeys), followed later still by Nancy Black (Monterey Bay Whale Watch), have charted the return of Blues in this region. Blue whales occur regularly from July through early November, with occasional sightings earlier or later. In years of great krill abundance, the Blues respond, becoming common.

Following several years of ship surveys (National Marine Fisheries Service) and individual photo ID (J. Calambokidis and associates), the California/West Mexico population is now estimated at circa 2000 and is the most robust known, exceeding that in the Southern Ocean. Winter concentrations of “our” animals occur off Southwest Baja California, in the lower Gulf of California and as far south as the far offshore Costa Rica Dome.

Summer/fall feeding in California occurs first on the Cortez and Tanner Banks off San Diego followed by the Northern Channel Island waters off Santa Barbara, then the Monterey region and the Gulf of the Farallones/Cordell Bank areas off San Francisco north to Sonoma County.

The first focused research on the Blue whale in our area was that of Moss Landing Marine Laboratories (MLML) Master’s student Jill Schoenherr, who studied feeding behavior and ecology during an exceptional fall influx in 1986 of 25+ animals, concentrated along the Canyon rim, 6-7 miles NW of Point Pinos. Currently Dr. Don Croll and associates from UC Santa Cruz (UCSC) and MLML are studying Blues and other baleen whales in relation to upwelling and krill patch formation. They have found the animals to depart quickly once the krill patches are exhausted, but return as soon as they reform.

In periods of abundance here individuals, often in pairs, venture into the inner Bay off Hopkins Marine Station and Cannery Row, but return quickly to deeper waters. The persistent observer may also observe them from shore in the deep Carmel Submarine Canyon waters from Cypress Point, Pebble Beach, and from Point Lobos State Reserve, during July – September.

While normally seen singly or in pairs, groups of widely scattered animals may occur in areas of krill abundance.

Strandings have occurred at Bean Hollow State Park, San Mateo County (skeleton mounted and on public display at the Long Marine Laboratory, UCSC) and between Point Sur and the Big Sur River mouth. Two or three others have occurred in Southern California. Ship collisions are judged to have caused some of these deaths. Blues are often, but not always, encountered during our ACS/MB summer whale watch in late August or early September.

In 1994 and 1995, the ACS Monterey Bay Chapter developed and implemented a really fun whale education program for some deserving 4th, 5th and 6th grade classes in the Alisal School District of Monterey County. I provide a brief summary here for two reasons:

in the hope that there may be individuals with an interest in reviving – and expanding! – that original project, and
to pay tribute to the very active Board of Directors during those years (including Mary Rodriguez), who whole-heartedly supported it.

Our board agreed that if we could help get under-served kids out on a boat to actually see whales, they would be much more likely to learn about them, remember what they learned, and ultimately make better decisions about conserving marine resources throughout their lives.

Fortunately, the AT&T Pro-Am Youth Fund, Monterey Sportfishing and the Alisal School District thought so too. In both years, AT&T funded our chapter so that we could pay for several classes to take gray whale watching boat trips offered by Monterey Sportfishing at a discounted price. Alisal School District staff were very supportive: administrators quickly identified classes from Alisal schools receiving Chapter 1 federal funding (due to the high percentage of socioeconomically disadvantaged students in attendance), and along with classroom teachers, they then successfully finagled bus time and coordinated school and bus schedules to transport the kids.

Meanwhile, board members trained several volunteer ACS members as gray whale naturalists. These volunteers presented multimedia classroom programs to each class, and a day or two later met students, teachers and parent chaperones at Monterey Fisherman’s Wharf to spend two hours whale-watching on the Bay.

The program was a great success, evidenced not only by the huge grins and shouts of excitement from the students on board, but also by the increased funding provided by AT&T Youth Fund the second year, allowing us to work with even more classes in the Alisal District.

wharfI believe the biggest, maybe only, reason that the program hasn’t continued to this day is that the ACS coordinator for the classrooms, naturalists, and boat trips really needed to be a paid staff person – or someone who could afford the time to volunteer many, many hours during November through January of each year. I sincerely hope one of these scenarios come true, because all young kids deserve chances like this. And what better place and time to make it happen than Monterey Bay of the new millennium, which now hosts more migrating grays than have visited our coast in more than a century.

BWBoatFlukesThe ‘dependable’ whales of Monterey Bay, the ones we consider reliable for setting fund-raising cruises and for whale watch projects, are Gray Whales and Humpback Whales. When ACS Monterey Bay (ACSMB) started in 1980, the Gray Whale was considered the only one recurring annually in large numbers, with peak southward migration dates in mid-January and a good number to be seen going north in mid-March. Moreover, the migration seemed to be passing within three miles of the Central Coast of California. For years, whale watching was considered a winter activity from Monterey. Monterey Sport Fishing owners and captains began donating fund-raising winter whale watches for Monterey Bay ACS early in the 1980’s.

Protected since the 1960’s, numbers had increased to more than 15,600 whales by the time Monterey Bay ACS was begun in 1980. Monterey’s Big Sur coastline was the site of ten years of census-taking by the federal government. In 1991, the population was estimated at 21,000. Finally, Gray Whales were removed from the Endangered Species list in 1994, with a population of 23,000. Such numbers, travelling at probably three to five miles per hour, with adults about thirty-five feet long, have made easy whale watch subjects.

Other whales were reported from time to time and early issues of the ACSMB’s newsletter listed some of them. The chapter had been formed only three months when, at the regular August meeting, several people quickly organized a boat trip to go a mile outside Cypress Point to watch one Blue Whale that had been discovered feeding on krill at the edge of the submarine canyon. It became apparent, however, that Blue Whales were not alone on summer feeding grounds. Historical records showed, and observers saw it was still true – there were Humpback Whales out there.

The exciting, acrobatic Humpbacks make wonderful watching. At about 50 feet and 30 tons, they move quickly through areas rich in feed, often blowing curtains of bubbles underwater to herd schools of prey. Sometimes they are in the company of hundreds of dolphins and birds in multi-species feeding aggregations. At times they surprise watchers by making them the target of Humpback curiosity. They may spyhop next to the boat, swim along the side or underneath, or float motionless just under the surface close by.

Cascadia Research and associated scientists conduct an active photo-identification program and estimate a population here of just under 1000 Humpbacks from May to November approximately. The program locates this population southwest of Mexico or west of Costa Rica in the wintertime.

Now, whale watching is almost a year-round activity and the chapter has fund-raising whale watches in both winter and summer. Trips are enhanced by surprise sightings of dolphins, including Orcas. The excitement and popularity of Orcas along the coast have added to the appeal. Unlike resident pods of Orcas in fairly predictable locations in the Pacific Northwest, transient Orcas may move along the coast from California to Alaska. They hunt marine mammals. Still expected during the spring when Orcas prey on Gray Whale calves in migration, Orcas might be sighted unpredictably at any time. The published catalog of identification marks of west coast Orcas is an ongoing research project involving Nancy Black (ACSMB member and grant recipient) and Richard Ternullo (past-president of ACSMB). Through their whale watch and research company, Monterey Bay Whale Watch, they compile mammal sightings year-round from many sources on the bay. The list is found on their web site, and is featured monthly in this chapter’s newsletter, Soundings.

MakowskiCommonDolphinHistory of ACSMB Grants

In 1980, the American Cetacean Society Monterey Bay Chapter (ACSMB) began awarding one to four grants annually to local Master’s degree and Ph.D. candidates conducting research on marine mammals. Generally, these grants support field research conducted either locally or out of the area by students from Moss Landing Marine Laboratories and University of California, Santa Cruz. The knowledge that the students gain is then shared with the Chapter through a lecture at one of the monthly meetings or a newsletter article.

The Bethel Grant is given each year in memory of the late Robert D. Bethel by his wife, Alice. Robert Bethel was a local ophthalmologist and a volunteer at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, a docent at Pt. Lobos State Reserve, and an active member of our chapter.

Typically, grant money has been raised through proceeds from ACSMB-sponsored whale watch trips which have been donated by Monterey Sport Fishing. In 1999 and 2000, however, two anonymous $1000 donations were given for the grant program.

Refer to ACS Research Grant Awards for a complete list of awards, compiled by Alan Baldridge.

Other ACS chapters that award research grants include Los Angeles, Orange County, and San Diego. ACS – National also awards grants. Other local grants funding marine science research are awarded each year through the Dr. Earl H. and Ethel M. Myers Oceanographic and Marine Biology Trust.

Many award recipients present their research findings at marine mammal conferences and symposiums. In November 2000, ACS will sponsor a national conference which could feature some of the award recipients in lecture or poster presentations.

Grant for Common Dolphin Research

In 1994, as a student at Moss Landing Marine Labs, I was fortunate enough to be awarded an ACSMB grant which helped with expenses incurred during my Master’s thesis research on Food Habits of Short-beaked (Delphinus delphis) and Long-beaked (D. capensis) Common Dolphins off California.

My involvement with ACS was directly responsible for the topic I chose for my research. During the 1992 ACS National Conference in Monterey, I was talking with Alan Baldridge at the opening reception at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. We were discussing common dolphins and research that was being done to determine if the two types (short-beaked and long-beaked) were really two separate species. Alan and I spoke to Dr. John Heyning, who happened to be one of the researchers on that project, and Dr. Heyning mentioned that he’d like to know more about common dolphin food habits. Dr. Heyning ended up being on my thesis committee and the rest is history.

So, what did I do? I examined stomach contents of 45 short-beaked and 49 long-beaked common dolphins killed incidental to fishery operations and stranded specimens collected from 1975 to 1994.

And what did I find? Prey species identified among the four dolphin groups (short-beaked in the by-catch, short-beaked that had stranded, long-beaked in the by-catch, and long-beaked that had stranded) included 49 fish species, 18 cephalopod species, and one crustacean species.

Short-beaked common dolphin in the by-catch appeared to have different prey species that were important compared to the other three dolphin groups. This would indicate that short-beaked common dolphin spend more time foraging offshore compared to long-beaked common dolphin which spend more time foraging nearshore. Long-beaked common dolphins and stranded short-beaked common dolphin ate similar predominant prey species. This would indicate that short-beaked common dolphin in the process of stranding switch from their “normal” prey species and forage on nearshore prey similar to long-beaked common dolphin. The use of stomach contents from stranded common dolphins to determine “normal” food habits, therefore, may result in erroneous conclusions. Male and female common dolphins of both species had similar diets. Prey species eaten by short-beaked and long-beaked common dolphins were similar among three oceanographic periods.

Awards usually $500
*** Robert D. Bethel Awards $600

Year, Name, Affiliation, Abbreviated Titles:
UCSC University of CA at Santa Cruz
MLML Moss Landing Marine Labs
GMONT Grossmont College
UCD University of CA at Davis
PWSDolphinDolphin drawing by Robert J. Western

Susan Shane, UCSC Pilot whale social organization and behavior.
Dane Mason, MLML Schooling behavior of the Common dolphin.
Elizabeth Ann Matthews, UCSC Sex determination in migrating Gray whales, from tissue samples.
Greg Silber, MLML Vocalization and associated behavior in Hawaiian Humpbacks.
BernieTershy, MLML Association among Fin and Brydes whales, Gulf of California, Mexico.
Ken Nicholson, MLML Feeding and migratory behavior in California Sea lions in Monterey Bay.
Ted W. Cranford, UCSC Geometry of sound generation mechanisms in Delphinid cetaceans.
Susan Kruse, UCSC Risso’s dolphins in Monterey Bay.
Susan Kruse, UCSC Risso’s dolphins in Monterey Bay.
Bernie Tershy, MLML Feeding ecology and social behavior of Rorqual whales in the Sea of Cortez.
Tom Jefferson, MLML Dall’s porpoise behavior in the Johnstone Strait, British Columbia.
Nancy Black, MLML Pacific White-sided dolphins in Monterey Bay.
Mari Smultea, MLML Humpback whale cow/calf pods in Maui.
Jim Sumich and W.C. Graham, GMONT Gray whale migration in the Southern California Bight.
Dawn Goley, UCSC Behavior of Pacific White-sided dolphins in Monterey Bay.
Salvatore Cerchio, MLML Song variation within a breeding population of Humpbacks.
Craig Hawkinson, MLML Summer feeding of Gray whales in Northern California.
Eric Dorfman, MLML Radio-tagging Harbor porpoises in Monterey Bay.
Tom Norris, MLML Song of the Humpback whale: repetition in a noisy environment. ***
Steve Trumble, MLML Food Habits, seasonal abundance and mother/pup relations of Harbor seals near Monterey Bay.
Tom Norris, MLML Song of the Humpback whale: repetition in a noisy environment. ***
Daniela Maldini, MLML Photo-identification of Bottlenose dolphins in Monterey Bay. ***
Corinne Bacon, UCSC Sea otters and pollutants. ***
Libby Osnes-Erie, MLML Food habits of two forms of Common dolphin.
Lisa Caron, MLML Genetic variation within California sea otters.
Tony Orr, MLML California sea lion diving and feeding behavior in Baja California.
Barb Odum, MLML Harbor Porpoise distribution in relation to prey in Monterey Bay. ***
David Levenson, UCSC Visual sensitivity in three pinniped species.
Michelle Lander, MLML Harbor seal pup survival: wild compared with rehabilitated.
Jennifer Jolly, UCSC Diet switching/profitability in Elkhorn Slough Sea otters. ***
Barb Odum, MLML Harbor porpoise distribution in relation to prey density in Monterey Bay.
Brandon Southall, UCSC Auditory masking in the Northern elephant seal.
Darian Houser, UCSC Kidney function in Northern elephant seals and Bottlenose dolphins.
Teri Nicholson, MLML Harbor seal underwater social structure and behavior at Hopkins Marine Station. ***
Jason Gedamke, UCSC Breeding ground accoustic behavior of Minke whales, Lizard Island, Australia.
Shawn Noren, UCSC Thermoregulation in Pacific white-sided dolphins. ***
Mark Clementz, UCSC Evolutionary studies of Cetacea and Sirenia using isotopic analysis.
Caryn Weiss, UCSC Differential calf survivorship in Bottlenose dolphins.
Jason Gedamke, UCSC Minke whale breeding ground behavior on the Great Barrier Reef, Australia. ***
Kara Buckstaff, UCSC Impacts of Watercraft Disturbance on Vocal Behavior of Bottlenose Dolphins.
Anurag Kumar, MLML Territoriality in Male Harbor Seals.
Shawn Ranee Noren, UCSC Diving in Bottlenose Dolphins.
Krista Hanni, UCD Determinants of Survival in Juvenile Southern Sea Otters. ***

BeachwatchThe bad news is that the government can’t really protect your house, your car, or your kids. It’s your job! The good news is that you will probably do a better job. You are closer, more familiar with the subject, and have a personal stake in the outcome. The same is true of our local environment – from land forest to kelp forest, and everything in between. It’s your job, it’s my job, it’s our job.

Here in the Monterey Bay area, mention the word volunteer and it seems everyone in the room turns around. The last two decades of the 20th century have been characterized by many things, some good some bad. One of the good things has been an increase in volunteerism. Here on the Monterey peninsula, we are very fortunate to have many good organizations, with literally thousands volunteering their time and talents, many commuting great distances to do it.

Through cooperation with local agencies and funding of research grants, the Monterey bay chapter of ACS has over 20 years of supporting community education, marine conservation and the protection of marine mammal species.

Beachwatch logo In 1982, ACS members Esta Lee Albright and Milos Radakovich founded Beachwatch, a marine mammal stranding team. In the first fifteen years of activity, Beachwatch provided an early-answer coverage for beached elephant seals, sea lions, harbor seals, sea otters and dolphins. The goal of continuing Beachwatch is to help the local SPCA and the Sausalito-based Marine Mammal Center (TMMC) respond more effectively to reports of marine mammals on public beaches, where both animals and curious humans might be in danger. Notified of a stranding, a Beachwatch coordinator deploys volunteers to set up a protective perimeter around the animal until it returns to the water or, in the event of illness or injury, is picked up by the appropriate agency. The Beachwatch volunteer monitors the animal’s behavior, educates curious public about the species, makes notes and photographs, and contributes to formal and informal reports. Integration with scientific and wildlife management agencies serves to give much-needed knowledge and credibility to a citizen-based volunteer program like Beachwatch. Close coordination with private and government agencies is always challenging, but our mutual goals of marine mammal protection and “land mammal” education have proved to be the unifying factor, most of the time.

In that same year, the local ACS chapter participated in another community effort: to facilitate the raising of $24,000 for the purchase of “Sandy”, a 25-ft. Gray whale sculpture, for the Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History. Spearheaded by local ACS vice president, Milos Radakovich, the program offered to individuals and businesses a chance to buy “shares” of Sandy at $3 per pound ($24,000 / 8,000lb = $3 / lb). Within six months, they had raised over $30,000, enough to purchase Sandy from artist Larry Foster, with enough left over to build a special display pedestal. By surrounding the kid-friendly Sandy with a sand border, she was made safer to climb. Since then, the Museum has completed a cetacean wing and is currently exhibiting many of Foster’s whale drawings and paintings.

An outgrowth of the Beachwatch volunteer program was Seal Watch. This was led by Kay and Bob Huettmann, two volunteers who answered many calls to newborn harbor seal pups in the Pebble Beach area. Using Beachwatch as a model, and receiving training specific to harbor seals on a nursery site, the Seal Watch volunteers provided twelve hours per day of monitoring, protection and education to the public at the nursery sites, for almost two months of the seals’ pupping time each year. The program contributed to harbor seal research with the addition of a blind near a beach for long-term observation and with an annual census of harbor seal pups on the nursery beaches of Pebble Beach. After ten years of operation, Seal Watch successfully retired when Pebble Beach Company closed the nursery beaches to the public during birthing season.

The value of protection and education of both marine and human mammals on the beaches is apparent. When the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary was formed in 1992, there was added a concern for appreciation of the beauty of the area and all its complex sea life. Bay Net, the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Volunteer Network, was created to provide assistance with viewing this sea life. Bay Net’s docent-naturalists are stationed at selected locations along the shoreline of the MBNMS, in Monterey, Pacific Grove and Santa Cruz. They are on-site interpreters answering questions about the area’s culture, history and wildlife – also the history, programs and policies of the MBNMS. Bay Net volunteers have integrated Beachwatch training and tasks into their program. In 1997-98, training was extended to the Cambria-based “Friends of the Elephant Seal” (FES) docents who help visitors to the new seal colony at Point Piedras Blancas, near Hearst Castle.

Bay Net is funded by tax-deductible contributions from individuals, organizations and agencies. Funds are channeled through the Center for Marine Conservation, a Washington D.C.-based non-profit conservation organization with offices in San Francisco, Santa Cruz and Santa Barbara. The program’s director is Milos Radakovich, former ACS-Monterey Bay president and one of the originators of Beachwatch. The Bay Net web site is

By Alan Baldridge


Status abbreviations:
SR – seasonal resident
YR – year-round resident
ST – seasonal transient
RST – rare seasonal transient
* Threatened    ** Endangered
Common Name Status
Steller sea lion * SR
California sea lion SR
Northern fur seal ST
Guadalupe fur seal RST
Harbor seal YR
Northern elephant seal SR
Southern sea otter * YR
Northern right whale ** RST
Blue whale ** ST
Fin whale ** ST
Minke whale SR
Humpback whale ** SR
Gray whale ST
Sperm whale ** ST
Pygmy sperm whale RST
Baird’s beaked whale ST
Cuvier’s beaked whale RST
Short-finned pilot whale RST
Killer whale ST
False killer whale RST
Pacific white-sided dolphin SR
Bottlenose dolphin SR
Risso’s dolphin SR
Long-beaked common dolphin ST
Short-beaked common dolphin ST
Northern right whale dolphin SR
Dall’s porpoise SR
Harbor porpoise SR
(Omitted are several ultra-rare species.)
Source: A. Baldridge, pers. comm., in Heimlich-Boran Marine Resources and Human Activities in the Monterey Bay Area, 1988. Updated February, 2000.
Chapter Board Members, 2000:
President: Jon Hubbard
Vice-president: Dave Zaches
Recording secretary: Cathy Cole
Treasurer: Scott MacDonald
Membership: Judy Hubbard
Program chair: Alan Baldridge
Newsletter editor: Don McGrain
Mailing: Barbara Oliver
Special Events: Jerry Loomis
Whalewatch: Katherine Whitaker
Past president: Dan Presser
Scientific Advisory Committee:
Alan Baldridge
Jud Vandevere
Tom Kieckhefer
Jerry Loomis
Jo Guerrero
Libby Osnes-Erie
Esta Lee Albright
Past Chapter Presidents:
Randy Puckett 1980-81
Milos Radakovich 1982-83
Esta Lee Albright 1984-85
Sheila Baldridge 1986-87
Jerry Loomis 1988-89
Jim Willoughby 1990-91
Diane Glim 1992-93
Jo Guerrero 1994-95
Richard Ternullo 1996-97
Dan Presser 1998-99

American Cetacean Society
Monterey Bay Chapter
Pacific Grove, CA 93950
Webmaster: Evelyn Starr