A gray whale comes up for air momentarily before taking a deep dive off the Long Beach coast into the Pacific Ocean. Photos by Brittany Woolsey
Gray whales, fin whales and dolphins. Oh my.
These were some of the animals seen as the Aquarium of the Pacific and Harbor Breeze Yacht Charters and Cruises took the media on an excursion on the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Long Beach on Monday morning.
December to April is the migrating season for gray whales, said Kera Mathes, Aquarium of the Pacific marine biologist.
The animals have been extremely noticable this year — a record season in 30 years, she said.
“We’re right at the beginning of the gray whale season, so that’s when all the whales are leaving the arctic area, which are their summer feeding grounds before they head down to Mexico,” she said. “This is the time of the year where we have all these southbound whales. The last couple of years have been very good years.”
She said the increase in how often these animals are seen isn’t necessarily because of a population increase, but because of a combination of factors, including them traveling closer to shore, less fog and better seas.
Mathes said there are currently 20,000 gray whales in this population, and when they migrate, they spread out as they’re traveling south. Many of them travel behind Catalina Island, Mathes said.
Other animals spotted on the media excursion included fin whales and dolphins, which were seen in pods swimming close to the boat.
“Fin whales also come and go throughout the year,” she said, adding that there are only between 50,000 and 90,000 left worldwide, marking it on the endangered species list. “Typically, we’ll find them off shore in the summer but they tend to feed more closer to shore in the winter. They are an amazing endangered animal.”
The best time to view these animals is now through April, Mathes said.
Two to two-and-a-half whale watching excursions embark through Harbor Breeze Cruises, off Rainbow Harbor located at 100 Aquarium Way, daily at noon and 3:00PM. Prices are $48.95 for adults over 12 years old, $44.95 for seniors and $30.95 for children. Prices also include admission into the Aquarium of the Pacific.