CalOceans News

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The great migration along California's coast

November 17th, 2011

As Ocean Conservancy's Kaitilin Gaffney notes, the parade of sea life that swims and flies along our coast each fall has just begun. November brings thousands of gray whales headed south on their more than 6,000 mile migration from summer feeding grounds in the Bering and Chukchi seas to calving grounds in the warm-water lagoons of Mexico's Baja peninsula.

You can watch them from Point Reyes, Big Sur, or Davenport, north of Santa Cruz, where you can often see whales cruise by from the bluffs overlooking the sea.

Winter is also a great time to see elephant seals.  From December to March they can be seen hauled out on California beaches at Point Reyes, Año Nuevo and Piedras Blancas where they mate, fight and give birth.

In addition to mammal sightings, this time of year brings great opportunities for birdwatching. Many seabirds spend their winters enjoying the relatively mild climate and reliable food supply of Monterey Bay. January brings murres, auklets, and other open-ocean birds in from their normal offshore habitat to calmer coastal waters.

Areas like Monterey Bay, Point Reyes, and the Farallon Islands have been set aside as marine protected areas or sanctuaries to help protect the wildlife that delights visitors.

Right now, California is working to expand its marine protected area system through the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA). This landmark effort brings fishermen, scientists, conservationists, business leaders and recreational ocean users together to map out a statewide network of ocean refuges that will keep special places from Del Norte County to San Diego full of ocean life.