Sea Otter Sighted in Channel Islands Harbor

First sea otter sighting for our crew south of Monterey.

Sea Otters head south

Wikipedia: Mother Sea Otter with pup at Morro Rock, Feb. 12, 2007 – photo by Mike Baird, bairdphotos.com 

Sea Otters have been under assault since the 18th century and their regeneration, in spite of regulations protecting them, has been slow. Slow and controversial.

Though sea otter numbers are extremely small, they compete with fishermen and urchin divers, and urchin divers and fishermen have had more sway with Congress, so the sea otter hasn’t had the protection they’ve needed to regenerate.

Nevertheless, on our trip back into harbor yesterday, we spotted one fishing in the channel. I’ve been sailing these waters for 10 years, more than 150 days every year and this is the first one I’ve seen south of Monterey. There aren’t many – probably less than 3,000 along the entire California coast, but we’ll continue to keep our eyes open when we’re near shore as they rarely venture past the 15 fathom curve.

For an excellent discussion of  sea otter problems and politics, read this Sept. 2013 account in the Santa Barbara Independent.

For a closer look at sea otters, go to the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Whales everywhere

It’s an incredible summer/fall  for whale watching.

Humpback Fluke © David Gallup, GAP

Humpback Fluke © David Gallup, GAP

We don’t chase them down, couldn’t even if we had a mind to. But we’ve had Blues and Humpbacks sidle up to us fairly recently.

Gray Whales are starting to show up per the schedule, while farther south a number of Blue Whales and Fin Whales still linger. Though I haven’t seen any myself, ORCAS are in the southeast end of the channel and at least one lonesome Sperm Whale (think Moby Dick) showed up near LA in the last few days.

The Condor express out of Santa Barbara reports numerous Humpbacks and Minkes everyday and Monterey reports numerous Humpbacks.

At a more prosaic level, we see dolphins every day, sometimes megapods with thousands of common Pacific dolphins and larger than usual pods of Risso’s dolphins.

It’s been a great year for Cetacean lovers, and it seems to show little let-up.

Sailing with Risso’s dolphins

 Capt. Dan has found that the channel is  full of these critters.

Happy to report that this species is not endangered.

Happy to report that this species is not endangered.

The channel has also been full of squid fishermen. And there is a connection — squid are the primary food for these graceful creatures, and squid are more than plentiful right now.

Here’s a quick video from a recent sailing adventure.