Whalefest returns to Monterey Bay

By Kristen Finley
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Whalefest volunteers dressed as marine animals to raise awareness on pollution.
Volunteers dressed as marine animals native to Monterey Bay to raise awareness on pollution and conservation. Photo by Kristen Finley.

Marine animal enthusiasts gathered in large numbers over the weekend at the ninth annual Whalefest to educate themselves and their children of the dangers of plastic pollution. People from all over California learned how plastic pollution directly affects the several species of whale, dolphin and porpoise that come into Monterey Bay to feed from January to April.

There were over 44 marine mammal related exhibits and kiosks, and the wharf was full of ways to make learning about important issues fun. From life-sized humpback whales children and adults could crawl which represented the typical amount of plastic found in beached whales, to having a drone in the water displaying plastic in the harbor, there was no mistaking the impact humans have had on marine life.

Other interactive kid-oriented activities included a life-sized model of an Orca, ‘fishing’ for different native species of the bay with magnets and metal replicas, puzzles, and a booth where participants could carve designs into soap to mock scrimshaw, the ancient art of carving whale bones. Face painting and whale watching tours were also offered, many at discounted prices, while several local seafood restaurants offered samples and meals at a discount as well.

Whale watching tour boat
Whale watching trips and wharf tours available with speakers about whales in the bay and plastic pollution. Photo by Kristen Finley.

Volunteers were also observed wearing costumes of native species with a sash embroidered with the web address for Save the Whales’ website to promote the organization’s deep-rooted mission to preserve our oceans. In addition, children were offered free masks of otters, giant pacific octopuses and various sea birds. Many children were spotted carrying plastic replicas of humpback whales, orcas and dolphins as gifts that were offered to them by marine scientists on site promoting conservation efforts.

For those more passionate, there were seven scheduled speakers for the entirety of the festival with important messages about the research actively being conducted in the bay and what their findings mean for the future of Monterey Bay, and the marine life that depend on its unique geography for food. One speaker talked about light pollution in the bay and how it affects the marine life that feed at night – such as squid, a few species of shark, skates and rays.

Sign at Whalefest reading: "Only you can prevent plastic pollution"
A hand painted sign with an otter and an important message about pollution and conservation. Photo by Kristen Finley.

Whalefest has served as a valuable way to teach both locals and tourists about the importance of keeping Monterey Bay clean of plastic, light and chemical pollution for nine years and counting. With great food, live music and interactive ways to learn, it’s not difficult to imagine why people came by the hundreds to participate.

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