Monterey Bay humpback spike causes whale-watching sensation

More than a dozen humpback whales are frolicking in the waters of Monterey Bay south of San Francisco. It's some kind of show for whale watchers who don't even need a boat to enjoy the spectacle, CBS News correspondent John Blackstone reports.

The humpback sightings near Moss Landing on California's Monterey Bay have been so stunning that even seasoned whale watchers are amazed.

"Ordinarily this time of year we typically do two trips a day, and they're not always full," said Mike Sack, co-owner and captain of the whale-watching vessel Sanctuary. "Since this started, we have been doing four full trips a day."

While humpbacks are not unusual in the area, they are venturing closer to the coastline this year than ever before.

"I told a lot of friends about it," said local Deborah Houston. "They've been coming down here. They've been going out on the boats, and it's amazing, amazing because it's just really unusual to see them so close."

Biologists say this has to do with an abundance of anchovies carried toward the shore by currents and tides.

"Sometimes we look down in the water and we see the water filled with anchovies as far as we can see," said Dorris Welch, co-owner of Sanctuary and a marine biologist. "So clearly the whales are coming into the shallow waters to feed on this abundant food resource."

And it's not just the whale-cruise business that's being impacted by the humpbacks' presence; the entire Monterey Bay tourist economy has seen a bump.

"We've seen a real uptick in how many people are coming through," said Phil DiGirolamo, owner of Phil's Fish Market and Eatery in Moss Landing.

At Phil's, the line has been out the door this season. Tourists and locals alike have come to grab a bite and watch the humpbacks. Some watch from the tables outside and others from the monitor in the bar, which shows a live feed from a webcam that's trained on the water.

"Some of the people walk up, they think it's footage, and then when they finally realize it's live right then and there, then they're running out to the beach to go see them," DiGirolamo said.

Although the humpbacks are expected to continue feeding in the area for several more weeks, DiGirolamo is already starting to plan for their departure.

"I'm thinking if the whales finally do leave, I'm going to probably call Warner Brothers and see if I can't get a mechanical whale from them," he said. "It's that much of a hit!"

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