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Humpback Whale

Megaptera novaeangliae

Seen mainly in the Spring, Summer, and Fall. Feeds on a diverse array of prey items. Baleen whale. Length 40-50 ft.

Bottlenose Dolphin

Tursiops truncatus

A coastal population can be seen from our local beaches, but the offshore variety is usually assciated with warmer water typically south of the Channel Islands. We see them in the channel occasionally when the water is warmer. Length around 12 ft

Blue Whale

Balaenoptera musculus

The largest known animal to ever live on planet Earth. Seen in the Santa Barbara Channel in late Spring through the Summer with a few late animals in the Fall. Baleen whale. Length 80-100+ ft.

Pacific White-sided Dolphin

Lagenorhynchus obliquidens

Generally seen during colder water periods, but a few sightings in Summer. A more swept back dorsal fin that is lighter on the back half. More of a blunt face than both Common and Bottlenose Dolphins. Length 8 ft.

Fin Whale

Balaenoptera physalus

The second largest whale. Seen most often during the summer both in the SB Channel and south of the Islands. Baleen whale. Length 70-80 ft

Gray Whale

Eschrichtius robustus

Seen in migration typically from December to March as they move between their feeding areas in the Arctic and the birthing lagoons in Baja, Mexico. Baleen whale. Length 40-50 ft.

Long-beaked Common Dolphin

Delphinus capensis

A year round resident. Seen more often in the channel than Short-beaked Common Dolphin. Pods can range from just a few individuals to well over 1000. Length 6-8 ft.

Short-beaked Common Dolphin

Delphinus delphis

Typically found farther offshore in deeper water or near seamounts. They tend to jump higher from the water than Long-beaked Common Dolphin. Length 6-8 ft.

Minke Whale

Balaenoptera acutorostrata

Our smallest baleen whale normally seen in the Santa Barbara Channel. Typically gives fleeting looks earning it's nickname "The Captain's Whale" because he is usually the only one to see it. Length 20-25 ft.

Risso's Dolphin

Grampus griseus

Feeds almost exclusively on small squid. As they age they turn white, and show numerous "scars" on their bodies from social interactions.  They are about the same size as Bottlenose Dolphin and sometimes can be found together and may even hybridize on occasion. Length 10-12 ft


Orcinus orca

We see these transient Orca mainly during the Gray Whale migration but they can potentially show up any time of year. Different pods specialize in different prey items. Some will attack Gray Whale calves, others pinnepeds, dolphins, or fish.

Dall's Porpoise

Phocoenoides dalli

Uncommon in the Santa Barbara Channel. Generally a colder water species that resides in the north Pacific. Views are usually frustratingly brief. This species is one of the fastest cetaceans and can reach speeds near 35 mph. When swimming at high speed they produce a "rooster tail" and barely break the surface when they breathe. 

Sperm Whale

Physeter macrocephalus

Very rarely encountered in the deep waters south of the Channel Islands. Largest toothed Whale at with  lengths of approximately to 65 ft (males are larger than females) They can dive to depths of over 7,000 ft. Females and younger males live in groups, while adult males or bulls, are usually found individually. Brownish wrinkly body, with pronounced nobs along the back.

California Sea Lion

Zalophus californianus

The most numerous marine mammal in southern California. They often haul out on bouys, docks, and remote coastlines. Males average around 800 lbs and develope a large bulbous mound on their foreheads. Females average 200-300 lbs.

Steller Sea Lion

Eumetopias jubatus

Steller Sea Lions in this area are found at the limits to their southern range. Females are about 500-600 lbs and males can range from over 1,000-2,000+ lbs

Northern Elephant Seal

Mirounga angustirostris

Most common around San Miguel and Santa Barbara Islands. The largest pinneped in our area. Males can be up to 14 ft long and weigh in at around 5,000 lbs. Females are smaller, only 11 ft long and 1,400 lbs. 

Harbor Seal

Phoca vitulina

Harbor Seals occur mostly around the Channel Islands and are less often encountered in deeper waters offshore. Very curious animals and have been known to follow snorklers and divers and interact with kayakers. As one can see they come in a spectrum of colors. A large animal will be close to 300 lbs.

Northern Fur Seal

Callorhinus ursinus

Most common on San Miguel Island with few sightings elsewhere in the SB Channel. Being that sightings are rare, this is the only picture I have. Taken at Anacapa Island. This is a young animal, probably not feeling that well.

Sea Otter

Enhydra lutris

Once common around the Channel Islands, hunting eliminated the population but we see a few every so often as the population grows and stabilizes.

Guadalupe Fur Seal

Arctocephalus townsendi

Rarely seen but becomes more common to the south of the Channel Islands. Breed on Guadalupe Island, Mexico. Fur on the dorsal side of the front flippers extends past the wrist, on Northern Fur Seals it stops in a line at the wrist. The head is less rounded as well.

Rare but recorded species not pictured:

Northern Right Whale Dolphin

Sperm Whale

Sei Whale

Cuvier's beaked whale

Baird's Beaked Whale

Brydes Whale

North Pacific Right Whale

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