What does the whale capitol of the world really mean?
In 2019, the whale watching companies of Dana Point purchased the trademark "whale capital of the world" and since then, there has been a lot of confusion as to what it actually means. The employees that work on the whale watching boats in Dana Point don't seem to be very fond of this term so it's interesting why they don't like it.
Why this claim is bad
All whale watching companies have varying levels of marketing, some good and some not so good. It's all to get business so it's understandable but at what point is it just lying to the public? When you tell people that one place is the best or anything similar to that when it very obviously is not, it sets the bar very high for paying customers. This works as a short term strategy to get customers to bring you their money but in the long term, it's really ruining whale watching as a whole as people think that all marketing strategies are just gimmicks after they come out to find out there are not always whales around. This hurts their own business as well as other companies along California and beyond. A company that claims to be the best or the capital of whale watching when it very clearly is not, is ultimately setting themselves up for failure.
The people that take the brunt of this poor marketing strategy are the employees. The captains and deckhands of these whale watching tours are very skilled and love their job, they also love showing you whales and dolphins. However, there are not always whales around although there are sightings year-round. When customers pay to go whale watching at a place that advertises as the whale watching capital of the world, they think there's going to be no shortage of whales to be seen at any given time. When people come out on days that there are no whales around which is not rare, they think the crew must be bad at their job and they are disappointed. This likely leads to less tips for the crew as well as bad vibes for the whole boat.
These paying customers that experience this will likely think that whale watching is not actually a thing here and that all companies use these poor marketing tactics, but they don't! All the whale watching companies lose out on profit because of this single desperate marketing tactic.
The further you travel north in California, the better the whale sightings get. Most of the food that whales eat is in colder water which is why they migrate. The further north you travel, the colder the water gets and also the bigger the underwater canyons are which causes more upwelling. The further south you travel in California, in general the whale sightings are lower.
How did Dana Point become the whale watching capitol?
There are smart people always looking for ways to make money of course! There are some people that have figured out that by purchasing trademarks for cheap and then selling them for more money to businesses that never even would have thought to own these trademarks, they could make some extra cash without having to do a lot of work. This person that purchased "Whale Capital Of The World" contacted many whale watching companies asking if they were interested in owning this trademark and it actually wasn't looking so good for this person as nobody seemed to care to purchase it. Even the whale watching in companies in Monterey Bay and Washington where whale watching is much better than Dana Point, denied purchasing this trademark as it's super inconsiderate to other companies and just stooping very low. However, after being turned down by many companies, the whale watching companies in Dana Point decided they would purchase this trademark and use it!
This slogan really means absolutely nothing, it doesn't make whales come to the area as they might tell you it does. The whales do not somehow know that Dana Point is the whale capital of the world, all they care about is migrating and feeding. They will go wherever the food is.
Dana Point does have a canyon that brings in food sources for whales as the canyon causes upwelling with the currents. However, so does Oceanside, San Diego, Newport Beach, Santa Monica Bay, Santa Barbara, Monterey Bay San Francisco etc...
What about the dolphin population
Southern California has one of the highest dolphin populations in the world. There are 4 species of dolphin that can be often spotted anywhere in Southern California with the most abundant being the common dolphin. These common dolphin are always traveling in search of food and do not have a predictable migration. Dolphin can be seen any day of the year off Southern California and there is no single place that is better to see more of them. If you see marketing claiming to be the best place for dolphin and the best for stampedes or anything like that, it's false. It's just more poor marketing.
Is Dana Point good for whale watching?
Yes! It is a great place to go whale watching as there are whale and dolphin sightings year-round and there is also great weather for the majority of days throughout the year. This is the same for any of the harbors along Southern California. It's always great to get on a boat and enjoy seeing the ocean wildlife. But just understand that the "Whale Capital Of The World" is just a poor marketing tactic and don't set your expectations that high because anything below that will just be a disappointment.
If you absolutely want the best odds of seeing whales, then drive north to Santa Barbara or Monterey Bay where there are LOTS more whales. However, if you don't want to put in that much effort, then you can definitely go whale watching locally and still potentially see whales and almost always see dolphins. No matter what it's always great to get out on the ocean to search more marine life, just be careful of the poor marketing.