Gray Whales: A Good Year off California

Jan 19, 2016 01:35 PM EST
Gray Whale spy-hopping, off Baja, Mexico

A Gray Whale census program off the Los Angeles coast has counted a good number of the sizable whales in their migration this season, with a higher number counted last Tuesday. (Photo : Flickr: Sam Beebe)

Pacific gray whales are fairly plentiful off California and in their West Coast migration this year. Indeed, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) ranks the eastern North Pacific population of these whales, the ones that pass Los Angeles, as at “least concern.”

 By last week, census-takers in the area had seen about 520 gray whales — with 11 calves alongside — pass Point Vicente this migration season. The area is 32 miles south of downtown Los Angeles.

Among gray whales, males measure about 45-46 feet. Females are slightly larger. This compares with humpback whales, with males at 40-48 feet and females at 45-50 feet.

The gray whale numbers for 2015-2016 are a bit lower than those in 2014-2015, but are still robust, according to the Gray Whale Census and Behavior Project, peopled by volunteers from the Los Angeles Chapter of the American Cetacean Society, the Cabrillo Whalewatch Program and elsewhere.

“We started our official gray-whale season on December 26 and, so far, we’ve seen a gray whale every trip we’ve been out,” Dan Salas, owner of Harbor Breeze Cruises, which runs tours for nature and whale watching from San Pedro and Long Beach, said in an article in The Daily Breeze.

This is currently the 33rd year that the Gray Whale Census and Behavior Project has counted gray whales from dawn to dusk off Point Vicente throughout the migration season, December through May. On Tuesday, whale watchers with the project, sponsored by the American Cetacean Society’s LA chapter, counted more than 20 gray whales passing Palos Verdes Peninsula.

“We are well above average, but still below our record year last year,” Alisa Schulman-Janiger with the Whale Census and Behavior Project said in the article. “Last week, we had three days in a row sighting 37 or 38 gray whales, and those were rainy or windy days with low visibility.”

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