Scientists report that this may be a near record season for the number of whales migrating southbound through the waters off the Palos Verdes Peninsula.
Since the the American Cetacean Society Los Angeles Gray Whale Census and Behavior Project began 31 years ago, this weekend marked the third highest count of southbound gray whales in the study's history, with more whales still heading south, according to Alisa Schulman-Janiger, project director for the census. It's the highest count since the 1997-98 season, she noted.
Some 1,055 gray whales have been tracked southbound en route to nursing and calving waters off Baja California so far this season, compared to 704 at the same time last year, Schulman-Janiger told Video News West. December was the highest month on record, she said, adding that good weather and more gray whales traveling closer to shore may be some of the reasons for the increased count.
The study, which uses citizen scientists, tracks whales seen from the Point Vicente Interpretative Center in Ranchos Palos Verdes from Dec. 1 through May 20.
In addition to the gray whales, four fin whales were seen traveling together near shore over the weekend. Once a rare sighting in California waters, fin whales -- which are in the same family as the blue and humpback whale -- have been reported more often in the past five to six years, she said.
February is normally the end of the peak of the southbound migration of gray whales migration season, but this year has been odd, she said. There appear to be two peaks this year, making it a great year to get out and see whales firsthand, according to Schulman-Janiger.