After picking up her six passengers, Spencer, owner of Fast Raft Ocean Safaris, steered the whale-watching boat to the center of the underwater Monterey Canyon while continuously glancing at her fish-finder radar. If the device spotted a large school of fish –– most likely anchovies –– that meant whales could be nearby.
Next to the radar, the boat captain kept a camera at the ready.
Scientists who study the behavior of whales say photos such as Spencer’s carry valuable information. So the scientists are now turning to whale-watching businesses and their customers for help gathering critical data needed to keep whale populations healthy.
“There’s so much that we don’t know about whales that any data is welcome,” said Jeremy Goldbogen, an assistant professor of biology at Stanford’s Hopkins Marine Station in Pacific Grove. “Even if it’s just a photograph of a fluke with a time and a place, that would be fantastic.”