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On Thanksgiving eve, a feast for whales in Monterey Bay

Feeding frenzy for whales, dolphins and sea lions in Monterey Bay 01:47

(CBS NEWS ) MONTEREY BAY, Calif. - A couple of turkeys' lives were spared on Wednesday, but further down the food chain, there is no pardon for anchovies -- which are providing a feast for some very large appetites on the West Coast.

On California's Monterey Bay you don't really need binoculars to see whales.

Humpback whales, dozens of them, are everywhere -- blowing away even avid whale watchers such as Karen Sheffer.

Anchovies are drawing whales, dolphins, sea lions CBS News

"It's never been like this" she said. "This is phenomenal."

 Do these whales make her feel very small?

"Oh, absolutely," she said. "Absolutely."

There are also dolphins and hundreds of sea lions. They are chasing an unexplained explosion of anchovies in the bay. Killer whales showed up to hunt the sea lions.

An unexpected explosion of anchovies CBS News
Tourists and scientists have never seen anything quite like it.

"There's easily over 100 to 200 whales in Monterey Bay," said Nancy Black, a marine biologist and the captain of a whale watching boat. "So this is like, you know, so exceptional we just can't even believe it."

"Looking pretty good," she said as she sighted more whales.

She says most of the humpback whales should have left for their winter breeding grounds in Mexico but could not pass up this fish feast.

Here is more whale video from Monterey Bay Whale Watch.

Raw video: Humpback whales feast on record number of anchovies 01:07

"It's a struggle between food and mating," Black said. "I mean, it's like, which one?"

Sea lions help the whales feed by chasing the anchovies into tight balls of fish. The whale simply opens its mouth, swallowing up to two tons of anchovies each day.

"So I'm just trying to tell the people how lucky they are to really witness this," Black said.

She knows this sea-life show will eventually end. For now, she says, just enjoy the view.

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