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Ocean Health

Whales and Dolphins Under the California Sun - Weekender

How can we do a better job of sharing the ocean with whales and dolphins in one of the U.S.’s most populous areas?


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The facts

Why the research is important

Why the research is important

Whales expend extra energy avoiding boat traffic and forage less when boats are nearby, which could push them past their limits.

This research tracks when and where marine mammals are in the area, which can help keep conflicts with boat traffic down.

It can be hard to fathom that a creature as massive as a whale could be at the mercy of us puny humans. But, of course, we all share the coastal regions like Southern California, and conflicts are bound to occur.

Observe species of dolphin including bottlenose, common and Risso's.

On this project, researchers observe the gray whales on their migratory route and other marine mammals in the area to assess how humans impact them. Collisions between whales and boats have risen steadily since the 1950s as ships have gotten larger and faster and whale populations have recovered from the whaling industry. Marine mammals are injured or even killed after becoming entangled in fishing gear. And there are less lethal, but very troubling, threats that come when maritime traffic intersects whale and dolphin home ranges or migratory paths. This traffic may cause animals to move their paths further offshore, or to forage less when in the presence of boats. Such impacts could increase the animals’ energetic costs while decreasing their gains from foraging, and could push an animal past its limits, especially in years when prey is limited.

By helping these researchers make observations of how whales and dolphins behave around boats and helping to track where these mammals move and appear, you’ll contribute to an accurate picture of what exactly happens between whales and humans at this crucial place where our species intersect.

About the research area

Rancho Palos Verdes, San Pedro, and Redondo Beach, California, US , United States, North America & Arctic

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The Scientists

MEET THE LEAD SCIENTIST

Lei Lani
Stelle
Associate Professor, University of Redlands

ABOUT Lei Lani Stelle

Dr. Lei Lani Stelle has researched Steller sea lions, the ecological interactions between gray whales and mysids (swarming zooplankton), and river otters. For Earthwatch, she's in Southern California researching whale and dolphin populations.

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