You're planning a visit to the coast and hope to do some whale watching. "Mass," (we sometimes like to refer to our great home state this way) welcomes you. Once you've explored the site a bit, please feel free to settle in and browse the online "fact sheets" on the Whale Talk page. You'll learn all about local marine mammals and what they like to snack on.
Take copepods. These crustaceans, enjoyed by the sei whale, the North Atlantic right whale and other whale species spotted during a whale watch (MA to HI), come in about 13,000 different species. Some copepods are "planktonic," and whales find them a good catch. Others are "benthic," which means they live on the ocean floor. Copepods are bioindicators in the sense that they help scientists determine how an ecosystem is doing. When you arrive for whale watching in MA with Capt. Bill and Sons, you'll be able to ask whale experts anything you want to know, including more details about these tiny organisms that thrive in the world's oceans. Wondering how a big animal like a sei whale can feel satisfied by something that is typically only one to two millimeters long? Ask us! (…or read on.) Here in Gloucester, Massachusetts, whale watching on the Miss Cape Ann is a shared experience. Guests, scientists, captain and crew are on the adventure together. We invite you to join us soon, becoming part of our "research team" as we learn ever more about these natural marvels.
View more information: Whale Watching Tours In MA
Here's an interesting tidbit: Baleen whales have everything they need to eat a lot of very small prey and thrive. They feed during the summer months (which accounts for the excellent Massachusetts whale watching every year), fattening up for winter breeding and migrating. Schooling fish, krill, and zooplankton, such as copepods, make up the biggest part of a whale's daily intake, and it takes hundreds of pounds of this small food to fill the stomach of a whale. How do they manage it every day?
They feed with a filtering system. No chewing required here, these mammals swim with mouths open, and water and food enter through the front baleen plates. Inside a baleen whale's mouth, the food stays and the water goes, exiting through the sides.
With rorqual whales (like the humpback so popular among those whale watching in MA), it's a bit different. They actually gulp huge amounts of krill, sand lances and schooling fishes and water, tilting their snouts upward. Water pressure makes their mouth cavity expand (thanks to the pleats that go from their mouths to their navels) and they then close their mouths. The water is pushed out the side of their mouths and the remainder, the food they need to thrive and grow, is digested.
One very clever way some marine creatures, including humpback whales, have of getting plenty of fish in a short time is with bubble net feeding. After diving down, a humpback, or a number of humpbacks, will swim in a spiral toward the surface. Releasing air from their blowholes results in a sort of tube-shaped net that schools of fish are reluctant to leave. Often, other whales will join in on the feast caught in the net of bubbles. It's a fascinating phenomenon, one that scientists continue to study, speculating about the effects of - and reasons for - the acoustics that whales emit during bubble feeding.
While whale watching, mass amounts of plankton will be consumed while the movements and sounds from bubble nets and tail slapping entertain those observing. Other types of feeding can be observed on a whale watch: MA naturalists, and others who spend their days in the area, watch how the whales come and go and other behaviors. Mother-calf pairs are sighted, and old friends, known by their fluke markings, come back to visit. We feel fortunate to play a role in bringing others out to the Bank to get a glimpse of the world of whales.