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Monday, July 24, 2006

L pod and Kelp

L pod
L pod
L pod
L pod
L pod
L79-Skana and L78-Gaia

On today’s noon trip we found the L12 matriline heading slowly north off False Bay, San Juan Island. The whales grouped up into a resting line and L41-Mega was identified. On our way back west we found more of L pod heading inshore toward the rest of the whales. It was nice to see them breaching against the backdrop of the Olympic Mountains in the calm-blue waters of Juan de Fuca Strait. On the afternoon trip we met up with L pod again now heading south along San Juan Island. The animals were more active with tail lobs, speed porpoises, and more breaches from a younger animal. On the way home we stopped to show the children onboard the fascinating bull kelp in our waters. Kelp forests grow predominantly on the Pacific Coast from Alaska to the waters of Baja California. The average growth rate of bull kelp is 10 cm/day (~4 inches/day). Kelp forests provide food and shelter for fish and shellfish. Marine mammals can feed in the kelp beds looking for the many species of fish and invertebrates taking refuge in the kelp forest. Sea otters play a critical role in the stabilizing forest equilibrium. Sea urchins eat the young shoots of the kelp and can destroy the forests. Sea otters prey on these urchins and therefore maintain healthy kelp ecosystems.

Kelp

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