Heal the Bay’s Santa Monica Pier Aquarium celebrated the annual migration of the Pacific gray whale during the “Whale of a Weekend,” Saturday and Sunday, February 2nd and 3rd.
Aquarium naturalists, along with members of Whale Watch, a collaborative program of Cabrillo Marine Aquarium and the American Cetacean Society, set up a wildlife observation station at the west end of the Santa Monica Pier. Binoculars and field guides were provided for guests to search for whales and other local wildlife.
Guests were also able to observe the marine life beneath the waves with the aquarium’s remotely operated vehicle (ROV). Participants took turns remotely controlling the vehicle as it broadcast live video from underneath the pier.
Inside the aquarium, children made a variety of whale-related arts and crafts, including a Santa Monica Bay wildlife guide and a pair of cardboard binoculars.
Gray whales complete an annual, round-trip migration of 10,000 to 14,000 miles, one of the longest migrations of any animal. The whales travel from their summer feeding grounds in the Arctic’s Chukchi and Bering Seas to their winter home in the lagoons of Baja California, where they spend several months mating and calving.
Around January, the whales begin the return journey to the Arctic. According to the Cetacean Society, the mothers and calves travel close to shore as they make the two-to-three-month trek north. Adult gray whales are approximately 45 feet in length and weigh 30 to 40 tons.
After being hunted to the brink of extinction, the gray whale has been a protected population since 1947, and the population has reportedly rebounded to between 19,000 and 23,000 animals.