Thursday, December 16, 2010
The American Cetacean Society (ACS) does an annual census of southbound and northbound gray whales off of Point Vicente and it’s official… the first gray whale has been spotted! According to the census, the whale was breaching as well. Hopefully that’s some kind of foreshadowing of what this year will look like.
Around this time is typically when we spot the first gray whales, but the first day is always something to celebrate. Another celebration will be when we spot the first whales on our boat! Although the ACS has spotted their first whale, we haven’t yet. I can’t imagine it will take too much longer. Once the first one is seen it’s usually another week or two before the first big influx starts to move through. Typically it’s the pregnant females that go by first. They’re trying to get to the lagoons to have their babies that are ready to be born. The second influx is the singles that are looking to mate and the third flux is normally the youngsters that were born the last couple years. We also see some cow/calf pairs where the mother has given birth on the southern portion of the migration.
Last year’s numbers were a little low, so I’m hoping that they pick up a little this year. The counts from the ACS census show that there were 312 southbound and 521 northbound gray whales last year. That’s the fourth lowest southern count and the lowest northern count. Just because these are the lowest numbers doesn’t exactly mean the overall numbers are really down. It could just be that the whales have been traveling offshore. There are many factors that can play a role in that, such as weather, boat traffic, etc. It is something to keep an eye on though. Gray whales are what we call an indicator species. Because they do the same thing pretty much every single year, when things start to change in their patterns, that means something is going on. Although each year is slightly different, only time will tell. From what I’m told though, there have been a ton of whales in the lagoons the last few years!
If you’d like to join us as we search for the first gray whales to be spotted on our boats, now is a great time. We know they’re here! With any luck, our first sighting will include a breaching whale as well.
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