Rare sighting of Blue Whales off the Washington Coast
Photo above is CRC ID-3174
On 24 July 2019, Kiirsten Flynn and John Calambokidis of Cascadia Research found two blue whales feeding just 17 nautical miles NW of Grays Harbor in just 60 m of water. Blue whales are the largest animals that ever lived and while a population lives and feeds in the eastern North Pacific and is commonly seen off California, sightings off Washington are rare with just a handful of documented sightings in the last 50 years. The most recent documented sightings were both in 2011 including on 8 December 2011 when six blue whales were sighted feeding off the Washington coast. The surveys are part of a research effort conducted by Cascadia Research in collaboration with Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and supported by NOAA to learn more about the occurrence of endangered whales off Washington.
The two whales seen on 24 July 2019 were both identified by their natural markings as known whales in Cascadia’s catalog that tracks a majority of the estimated 2,000 blue whales in this population. One animal was CRC-3385, (photo below) seen previously in June 2016 in the Santa Barbara Channel and ih 2016 and 2017 near Monterey Bay. The other animal was CRC-3174 (photo above) and had been seen previously in August 2014 off southern California (near Malibu). Similarly, four blue whales identified in 2011 (CRC IDs 323, 1642, 1709, and 2117) were identified as known animals seen in previous years off the California coast going back to 1987.
Photo below is CRC-3385.
Click here for a NW News Network article on this sighting and more sightings off Oregon.
Click here for a 2011 post on another blue whale sighting off Washington.