GO­ING WILD WITH A SPLASH

Dive into a week of en­coun­ters with the world’s most in­cred­i­ble marine wildlife – live from Cal­i­for­nia.

BBC Wildlife Magazine - - Books - Sarah McPher­son Sec­tion ed­i­tor

They’ve broad­cast live from a plethora of UK re­serves ( Spring­watch), from the Maa­sai Mara ( Big Cat Live) and even from five con­ti­nents in one night ( Planet Earth Live). But this month the BBC em­barks on a com­pletely new live nat­u­ral-history ex­trav­a­ganza, this time from Mon­terey Bay, Cal­i­for­nia.

Viewed from the air, Mon­terey Bay is that chunky lit­tle bite out of the coast­line just south of San Francisco. “The wildlife here is noth­ing short of ex­tra­or­di­nary,” says se­ries pro­ducer Adam White. “It all stems from spring up­wellings in the sea, which bring nu­tri­ents to the sur­face and kick-start a mon­u­men­tal food-chain. As the sum­mer pro­gresses, more and more species ar­rive to feed, with the big­gest – blue and hump­back whales, sealions, ele­phant seals and great white sharks – turn­ing up to­wards the end. Big Blue Live will give view­ers the chance to wel­come in th­ese amaz­ing an­i­mals, and to understand more about the ocean ecosys­tem.”

You need only glance at the Mon­terey tick-list to understand why it’s known as the ‘Serengeti of the Sea’. No fewer than 34 species of marine mam­mal fre­quent th­ese wa­ters, some of them trav­el­ling im­pres­sive dis­tances for a share in the sum­mer feast. Blue and hump­back whales swim from their breed­ing grounds off Mex­ico, for ex­am­ple, while ele­phant seals come from the far North Pa­cific and great whites orig­i­nate in Hawaii. “We filmed the start of the whale mi­gra­tion ear­lier in the year,” says Adam. “We’ll be look­ing at the jour­neys the an­i­mals have made and what they’ve en­dured to get here. We’ll have eyes and ears every­where, but film­ing them is still go­ing to be a huge chal­lenge. Th­ese crea­tures may be big, but the ocean is very, very big.”

Mon­terey’s wa­ters boil with wildlife to­day, but the scene could have been very dif­fer­ent. Many species,

FILM­ING THE WHALES IS GO­ING TO BE A HUGE CHAL­LENGE.

TH­ESE CREA­TURES MAY BE BIG,

BUT THE OCEAN IS VERY,

VERY BIG.

Adam White se­ries pro­ducer

in­clud­ing sea ot­ters and hump­backs, clung on in the early 1900s fol­low­ing cen­turies of hunt­ing. But since the 1972 Marine Mam­mal Pro­tec­tion Act and the des­ig­na­tion of the Mon­terey Bay Na­tional Marine Sanc­tu­ary in 1992 – it­self part of a net­work of sanc­tu­ar­ies along Amer­ica’s West Coast – there have been some re­mark­able re­cov­er­ies. Hump­backs, for in­stance, have bounced back with such gusto that the Na­tional Oceanic and At­mo­spheric Ad­min­is­tra­tion has pro­posed re­mov­ing 10 out of 14 pop­u­la­tions from the en­dan­gered species list. “It’s pos­si­bly one of the great­est con­ser­va­tion suc­cesses on the planet,” says Adam. “And the fact that it’s all hap­pen­ing be­tween two of the largest cities in the world – San Francisco and Los An­ge­les – is pretty in­spir­ing.”

As well as bring­ing view­ers en­coun­ters with the world’s most charis­matic marine wildlife, Big Blue Live will also re­port on cut­ting-edge ocean science and ex­am­ine on­go­ing con­ser­va­tion is­sues. “Yes, there’s amaz­ing wildlife here, but prob­lems re­main,” says Adam. “Blue whales con­tinue to get struck by con­tainer ships, for ex­am­ple, and hump­backs still get en­tan­gled in nets. We need so­lu­tions to th­ese chal­lenges.”

Hump­back whales face many dan­gers on their jour­ney to Mon­terey, in­clud­ing preda­tory or­cas and en­tan­gle­ment in fish­ing nets. Big Blue Live will as­sess how suc­cess­ful their year has been.

Sun 23 Au­gust, 7pm; Thurs 27 Au­gust, 8pm; Sun 30 Au­gust, 7pm

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