It’s been a lovely couple of weeks, minus some of the storms and getting rained out, but when we were out on the water there was plenty of sea life to explore and observe. The whale watches have spotted a few gray whale cow/calf pairs heading south towards Mexico and our guests have been asking why they still move south even though the baby was born. Why not just turn around and move north? Or even why are they being born in California instead of Mexico?
Well, I’m glad you asked. First, let’s talk about gray whale migrations and what they’re doing. These beautiful animals have one of the longest migrations on record besides bird migrations. Summers are spent feasting in the colder Northern Pacific waters ranging from Oregon all the way up to the Bering Sea. Winters are spent giving birth, finding mates, or hanging out until they start migrating back north. Gray whales reach sexual maturity at about 5 years old, or older, so until then they are mature they are either migrating with mom or are moving through the migration patterns. If we were to follow a gray whale right after breeding in the lagoons of Mexico it would take almost the full year for this whale to reach full gestation, 13 months for some, and the baby wouldn’t be born until the following winter when they get back down South. After the baby is born and the cow/calf pair start moving north mom won’t eat until the baby grows to a point it can start weaning and diving separately. For many of the large whales, weaning happens around 6-8 months of age. The reason we see some calves born in California waters could be as simple as they were near this area when they mated. The whale watches have witnessed courting and breeding behavior from gray whales. Also, remember gestation typically ranges 12-13 months, with the 13th month serving as a waiting period for the mom to get as far south as it can as the baby is not growing much in this extra month.
If you would like to see some gray whales and help us find some cow/calf pairs, come on down to Long Beach and get your combo ticket to the Aquarium of the Pacific and Harbor Breeze Cruises. Whale watches board at 12:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. every day.
See you on the water!