Caitlin Fitch

Scene in S.B.: Whale Counters

Gray Whales Count Volunteers Monitor adult gray whales

With the help of more than 100 area volunteers, Gray Whales Count monitors adult gray whales, and occasionally their calves, as they migrate north through the Santa Barbara Channel from Coal Oil Point Reserve at UCSB. “This has really become a way of life for some of our volunteers,” said Michael Smith (above, center), founder of Gray Whales Count, with volunteers (from left to right) Susie Dell, Chad Moura, Samara Travella, and Ashley Steinkraus. “It’s a diverse group of people from young professionals to retired folks.”

For the last 11 years, from early February to mid-May, the counters scour the horizon for any sign of gray whales 9 a.m.-5 p.m., seven days a week. Last year, the group tallied more than 1,000. “We never know when we will see a whale; they are just on their highway,” added Smith.

By Caitlin Fitch

Volunteer Samara Travella adds another gray-whale sighting to the count on a dry-erase board fixed to the fence. For more information, see

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