If you love whales, hurry and plan your travel for the 12th annual Whalefest Monterey, coming up on March 19 and 20. People come to Monterey, California from around the world to celebrate cetaceans and get the lowdown from world-renowned marine experts and historians .
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The free, family-friendly event will take place at Old Fisherman’s Wharf and the Custom House Plaza-Monterey State Historic Park. Participants can view marine-related exhibits, listen to music, learn from whale experts and maybe even see some whales. To make this year extra special, the event also celebrates NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries’ 50th anniversary of ocean protection, and the 30th anniversary of the local Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Keynote speakers former Congress member Sam Farr and former Save Our Shores director Dan Haifley will kick off Whalefest 2022. After the keynote speech, Lisa Woonick, superintendent of the sanctuary, will speak on 50 years of whale conservation.
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We are very excited to have former Congressman Sam Farr who was instrumental in the formation of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, as well as former Save Our Shores director Dan Haifley discuss how a decades long citizen movement culminated in the creation of Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, protecting one quarter of California’s coastline from offshore oil and other threats, ”said Whalefest Monterey chair Mary Alice Cerrito Fettis. “Some great new features of this year’s Whalefest Monterey include tracing the fascinating cultural fishing history as well as the recovery and role of the California condors in the Monterey Bay region, among other timely topics.”
Take a walk on the wharf
Of course, the best thing about Whalefest is whales. This could be your chance to glimpse the whales, dolphins, porpoises, seals and sea otters who frequent the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. People come from all over the world to see marine critters feasting on the bay’s krill and anchovy buffet. Participants will be especially excited to set foot in Monterey after last year’s entertaining but all virtual four-day fest.
Fisheries historian Tim Thomas will conduct two one-hour Wharf Walks both days at 11:00 am and 12:30 pm. Humans have been fishing the bay for thousands of years, beginning with the Rumsien Ohlone. Later came whalers from the Azores, abalone divers and salmon fishers from Japan, squid fishermen from China and sardine fishers from Sicily. Thomas is a fourth-generation Monterey native. His books on local history include “Monterey’s Waterfront,” “The Japanese on the Monterey Peninsula” and “The Abalone King of Monterey.”
Catch some whale music at the fest
Whales are known for their distinctive sounds, and so is Whalefest. This year’s music lineup includes keyboard players, a violinist and a mandolin player, among others. Whalefest music director Nicholas Fettis will play original music with his “Orca” stra of whale sounds. Monterey reggae band Jonah and the Whalewatchers has been together for more than 25 years and features a steel pan player. Internationally renowned composer and violinist Mads Tolling may bust out tunes from his recent project Mads Tolling & The Mads Men, who play 1960s film, TV and radio songs.
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Whalefest Monterey Symposium speakers
Symposium speakers this year include voices from academia, NOAA, the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary and even a vineyard. A few highlights: Eric Wente or Wente Vineyards will talk about agriculture, the marine environment and sustainability. Stephanie Marcos and Victoria Wade from the Monterey nonprofit Marine Life Studies will share the extraordinary orca encounter they had while on a research boat in 2020. Allison Gong from Cabrillo will talk about some of Monterey Bay’s tiny residents in her lively-sounding talk, “A Farmer, a Hitch-hiker, and a Worm Impersonator Walk into a Bar: A Trio of Intertidal Gastropods in Monterey Bay. ”
“We’re really proud of our Whalefest Monterey two-day symposium where each year a dozen or so marine scientists from our local academic and research institutions share their latest research findings with the general public, often right upon publication,” said Whalefest Monterey director Antoinette Saylor. “Where else can you walk right off the street and learn about anything from preventing whale entanglements to using drones to get timely information on coastal changes to the possible role of coastal fog in climate change?”
Spend time exploring the Serengeti of the Sea
If you go to Whalefest, be sure to take some time exploring all that the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary has to offer. This stretch of 276 central coast miles from San Francisco to Cambria has been called the “Serengeti of the Sea.” You’ll find kelp forests, tide pools, and marine life ranging from shrimp to giant blue whales. The marine sanctuary has been promoting environmental stewardship and ocean research since its designation in 1992. It’s one of the largest national marine sanctuaries in the US and covers more territory than Yellowstone National Park. Recreational activities include surfing, boating, kayaking and diving. Or stay close to shore checking out tide pools or scanning the horizon for whales.
Images via Whalefest and Pexels