Whale watchers on a boat off the coast of San Francisco saw an unusual sight last month: 24 orcas west of the Farallon Islands were frolicking together in what naturalists say appears to be a gathering of several different families.
Orcas often spend time along the central California coast at this time of year, especially in Monterey Bay, but they don’t usually show up in such large groups near the Faraglioni. The reason they’re here isn’t so pretty to contemplate: They’re hunting sea lions and gray whale calves that migrate up the coast with their mothers, and the method is “pretty brutal,” said Nancy Black, a marine biologist at the whale. observation team Monterey Bay Whale Watch and the California Killer Whale Project, which tracks individual killer whales.
“They come to this area because they have an advantage when they hunt gray whales,” said Black, who has studied orcas for 35 years. “Grey whales and calves have to cross Monterey Canyon. That’s the danger zone.”