Marine Mammals at CNM

Marine Mammals Of Point Loma

Marine Mammals

Photographs From Marine Mammal Center, Sausalito, CA.
by Garth Graves

Marine Mammals You Could See

Photographs From American Cetacean Society and Monterey Bay Aquarium




Sea Lions

CaliforniaSea Lion

Stellar (Northerly)





Pacific White-SidedDolphin





Gray Whales (Dec-Apr)


Marine Mammals You Might See

Killer Whales

Small rogue pod in local So CaKiller Whale

Humpback Whales

Summer feed in Arctic
Winter in Hawaii, Mexico and the MariannasHumpback Whale

Fin, Sei, Blue, Minke, Brydes, Right, and Sperm Whales

Sea OttersSea Otter

Marine Mammals You Won’t See


Fur Seals

Beluga Whales


Elephant Seals






Polar Bears


What’s the difference …

…between a Cetacean and a Pinniped?

– Cetacean (Whales, Dolphins, and Porpoises)

  •          Sea creature
  •          Blow holes
  •          Fins are not used for walking
  •          No external ears; ear canals thought to be non-functional


– Pinniped (Seals, Sea Lions, and Walruses)

  •          Can breathe on land
  •          Breathe through mouth and nose
  •          Fins are modified more as “arms” or “legs”
  •          Can hear through ears

Gray Whale


…between Whales, Dolphins and Porpoises?

– All whales, dolphins and porpoises are really whales
– Most whales and all dolphins and porpoises are in the toothed whale order
– Some whales have baleen instead of teeth
– Whales are generally longer than about 9 feet, dolphins and porpoises are generally less than 9 feet
– Baleen whales are generally the largest of the Cetaceans

…between Dolphins and Porpoises?

– NOAA says the differences between dolphins and porpoises essentially comes down to their faces, fins, and figures
– Dolphins are lean, porpoises are portly
– Dolphins are more prevalent than porpoises
– Dolphins are more talkative than porpoises
– Dolphins make whistling sounds through their blowholes to communicate with one another underwater. Scientists are pretty sure that porpoises do not do this, and some think this may be due to structural differences in the porpoise’s blowhole.
– Dolphins have cone-shaped teeth while porpoises have flat or spade-shaped teeth.
– Dolphins usually have a pronounced “beak,” while porpoises have a rounded head.
– Dolphins generally have a very curved or hooked dorsal fin, while porpoises have a triangular dorsal fin.
– Porpoises are generally smaller than dolphins.
– Most porpoises are shy, live close to shore and are less likely to ride alongside the bows of ships than dolphins.



…between a Seal and a Sea Lion?

– Seals

  •          Bullet shaped
  •          “Bumpy” way of moving on land
  •          Furry, generally stubby front feet
  •          Claw on each small toe
  •          Vocalize via soft grunts
  •          Better adapted to live in water than on land
  •          Smaller and more aerodynamic
  •          Hind flippers angle backward and don’t rotate; not modified for walking


– Sea Lions

  •          Ear flaps
  •          Skin-covered, elongated fore flippers
  •          Noisy
  •          Can rotate hind flippers forward and underneath big body
  •          More social than seals
  •          Better at terrestrial locomotion as fins are modified for walking
Sea Lion
Sea Lion


Whale Shapes and Sizes

Whale Shapes and Sizes


Whale Shapes and Sizes and Status

Whale Status

Behaviors Seen From Shore

– Seals and Sea Lions feeding in the surf

– Dolphins and Porpoises (inside or beyond the kelp) leaping, spinning

– Gray Whales (beyond the kelp) spouting on their annual migration (south: Dec-Jan; North: Feb-Apr)

      Mother and Calf large and small blows nearly simultaneous

      Juveniles just hanging around


Of What you Can See From Shore, You Can’t See Much of Them…



Gray Whale’s Breathing Pattern…Two or Three Blows, then Sounds

Whale BreathingWhale Breathing

Spouting and Sounding
Whale Spouting


Whale Breaching


200mm Shore View

200mm Shore View

200mm Shore View

Photos by Ronald J. Britton – fellow Geocacher


Gray Whale Annual Migration


Rate of Travel

  • at 4 MPH X 24 hours = 96 miles/day
  • 6,000 mile migration = 62 days
  • Divided by 7 days/week = 9 weeks
  • Divided by 4 weeks/month = 2+ months


  • Calving females time departure for due date
  • The Chechen Sea may ice over mid-October
  • Mid-November she has traveled 2,880 miles
  • Mid-December she has traveled 5,760 miles to lagoons of coast of Mexico


10,000 Mile Migration

Gray Whale Migration

Gray Whale Migration



  • California Gray Whale population under 2,000 twice in last 150 years
  • Whaling restricted in U.S. in 1937, in the world in 1947
  • Marine Mammal Protection Act expands to other species
  • Population estimated to be 20,000+



  • Sea World has a viable marine mammal rescue program for Southern California
  • Up to 475 rescues annually
  • Possible reasons for beaching:
    • Dehydration
    • Illness
    • Malnutrition
    • Injury
    • Separation
    • Exhaustion



Vintage Photos from CNM Archives

Vintage Whale Sighting

Vintage Whale Sighting

Last revised 15-Dec-15