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Hey… Monterey Bay Whale Watch… Lob tailing is a sign of aggression or, at least, a precursor to aggression. Can you maybe stop misleading your audience into thinking that wild cetaceans give a damn about a noisy boat of humans and interpret behaviour correctly?


If a whale starts lobbing when your boat approaches?


Unless you want a very pissed off 60 foot whale coming for you.

This, is how boats get capsized. and people drowned. Whales are not all docile and friendly, some can be pretty upset with all the loud noise and banging around done by us land jockeys. 

though on another note, recently it was discovered that humpbacks use it as a foraging tool as well, having taught it to others in the foraging groups since calves and mothers have not been observed using it over a nine year period. it frightens fish and tightens the schools. So even if it wasn’t for an aggressive display, they don’t give two shits about the boat and more than likely are doing what they can to avoid it. 

Oh yes dolphins do the same thing – and also something that maybe a noisy boat isn’t going to help with. It could be driving the fish all over the place.

Keep in mind most humpback whale behavior is contextual and we don’t always know why they do what they do. I’ve watched humpbacks lobtail just like this from shore without a single vessel in sight.

Studies in Australia also show humpbacks increase their aerial behaviors (like breaching and lobtailing) as wind speed increases, meaning they may utilize such behaviors to communicate. This is something I’ve noticed happens in Alaska as well, and it appears there is high wind in the video.

Interpreting whale behavior in the presence of boats vs without boats is hard. I know a grad student working on a research project where she’s studying the impact whale watching boats have on the behavior of humpbacks. She was careful to explain that if there is an impact, she doesn’t necessarily know what it suggests: is it good or bad? We don’t know, and won’t know unless there is physiological data to corroborate it with.

Also keep in mind that the Monterey Bay Whale Watching vessels are often captained by Nancy Black, a local whale biologist. MBWW is actually a very reputable organization that other biologists respect and frequently utilize. They also use telephoto lenses on their vessels so pictures and videos give the impression they are a lot closer to the animals than they actually are.

Just as it’s bad to say whales are happy to see you and that’s why they do what they do (not a great social media caption, I will say) it’s equally bad to assume every single behavior done in the presence of people is aggressive and negative. Neither of these two extremes gives us an accurate picture of what is going on.