Coronavirus Forces Researchers To Get Creative With Whales

Not too long ago, humpback whales were once spotted only along the Northern California coastline.

Lately, it’s been a whale of a different story. The giant cetaceans are visiting San Francisco Bay more and more to find food.

"Every year during the summer, all the way until May, June, July, all the way until October," said Bill Keener, Research Associate with the Marine Mammal Center’s Cetacean Field Research Program.

They are attracted to the native anchovy, which is abundant in the Bay.

The fluke of a humpback whale is seen as the whale swims in a lagoon on June 05, 2019 in Alameda, California.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Keener told KCBS Radio it’s been hard to keep track of the whales during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We might go out on a boat or in the (Marin) Headlands or San Francisco looking down, but when the parks had closed and then boats, we couldn’t get together, we had to maintain social distance," Keener added.

Now he’s relying on the public to report in sightings of whales.

"We have really found that to be incredibly valuable," Keener said. "That citizen scientists (are) helping us keep track of the whales in San Francisco Bay."

Just last month, researchers reported dozens of blue whale sightings along the Farallon Islands off the coast of San Francisco. It's part of a worldwide explosion of animal life during the COVID-19 crisis, as less foot and vehicle traffic has helped cut back disruptions in the wild.