Sunday, 30 December 2012

Whale watchers get ready as Pacific gray migration begins

The annual Pacific gray whale migration has begun in Southern California and whale watchers are already excited about the number of sightings near the South Bay this week.
About 100 Cabrillo Marine Aquarium volunteer naturalists climbed aboard the Redondo Beach Voyager Wednesday morning at the unofficial start of the local whale-watching season. It was too windy for the boat to venture out to areas where the gray whales might be spotted, but there are already indications that lots of the 50-foot-long mammals will be seen through the end of the season in May.

"Last season, our gray whales migrated closer to shore and our counts were quite high," said Alisa Schulman-Janiger, director of the annual gray whale census count at Point Vicente Interpretive Center in Rancho Palos Verdes. "The migration started earlier than usual. This year, the same thing may be happening."

The census, sponsored by the Los Angeles chapter of the American Cetacean Society, has been taking place since 1979. Last season, volunteer census takers posted at the interpretive center counted a record 672 southbound and 1,133 northbound gray whales from December to May.

Each winter, the whales swim south in one of the longest known mammalian migrations. On the 14,000-mile round-trip, they go without food as they seek out warm lagoons in Baja, Mexico, to give birth and mate. They must give birth in warm water because their babies are not born with enough blubber to insulate them against the cold Alaskan seas.

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