Information & Details

Protect the Environment

We at SF Bay Whale Watching are dedicated to the conservation of our oceans and all of the marine life that inhabits them.

Where Are the Whales?

Where are the Whales? In order to better understand the whales, dolphins and porpoises that live off of our coastline, we need to have a better understanding of where they live, and their behavior in their natural environment. On our trips, we use a GPS to record exactly where the animals are and we can record notes about their behavior at those sites. We also record the track the vessel takes on each trip. Pairing these two sets of data allows us to not only identify where the animals are, but also where they are not.

We are also going to be using the new Spotter app developed and managed by NOAA. This app records cetacean sightings in real-time, and provides NOAA with current information about the location of various species around our coastline. NOAA can use this information to better understand individual species and to aid in their conservation.

The Spotter app will be publicly available on the iTunes store soon. You too can help conserve local marine wildlife!

Plastic Pollution 90% of the pollution on the surface of the ocean is plastic. Every square mile of the ocean contains 46,000 pieces of plastic. An estimated 100,000 marine mammals and one million sea birds are killed each year due to accidental plastic ingestion or entanglement. Whenever possible, we will go out of our way to collect plastic debris we find in the water.

Collaborations At SF Bay Whale Watching, we fully appreciate the difficulties of conducting research at sea. We are using our time on the water to help local organizations and researchers collect data. If you think your research project or organization could benefit from data we can collect on the Kitty Kat, please contact our biologist, Carla, at [email protected]

An orca breaching the water.
A bird casually floating on the water.

The Farallon Islands — Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary

The Farallon Islands are located 27 miles west of San Francisco, in the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary. The islands support a spectacular assemblage of wildlife including nearly ¼ million seabirds such as the common murre, Cassin’s auklet, and tufted puffin. During late spring and summer, seabirds use the islands for breeding, nesting, and raising their chicks. The Farallones also are important habitat for thousands of seals and sea lions that use the islands for breeding and resting.

The waters surrounding the islands, the setting and focal point of our ecology adventure tours, are among the richest on Earth and provide important habitat for many species of porpoises and dolphins, including harbor porpoise, Pacific white-sided dolphin, and Dall’s porpoise. The islands also serve as migratory destinations (and/or stops along migration routes) for many species, including the great white shark and whales, such as the orca or killer whale, the gray whale, and the endangered humpback and blue whales. Given appropriate sea conditions, our day-long adventure allows us to explore not only the islands, but also the deeper ocean waters west of the Farallones, near the edge of the continental shelf.

History of the Islands

The Native American Coastal Miwoks called the Farallons the “islands of the dead,” because they believed they visited the islands in spirit only. Their fragile boats, crafted of tule reeds, could not make it through the rough seas to the islands, which they could see on clear days, but legend has it that they sent their dead, wrapped in the tule reeds, to the islands of the spirits. The Farallons have also been called “the Galapagos of central California.” Because of the spectacular seasonal displays of richness and abundance, wildlife observations here are equal to those anywhere on our planet.

From the first known visit by Europeans, Sir Francis Drake’s landing in 1579, the Farallons were exploited by humans for centuries. First, passing ships would replenish their stores with seal meat and seabird eggs from the islands. Later, both American and Russian seal hunters arrived, decimating the population of fur seals. When Alta California became part of the U.S., in 1848, the Farallons became an important part of the City of San Francisco (and the islands are still officially inside the city limits). A lighthouse was built in 1853 and, as San Francisco grew, enormous numbers of seabird eggs (at one point, half a million every month,) were taken to feed the hungry new citizens.



The depredation continued, until the island began to be protected by the United States, starting with a 1909 executive order by Theodore Roosevelt.

In 1969, all of the Farallons were included in the newly-designated National Wildlife Refuge.

Today, the only human residents of these 90-million-year-old rocks are researchers from the Point Reyes Bird Observatory.

These scientists continually conduct studies to help answer important questions about this complex ecosystem and its seabirds, sharks, and marine mammals.