It appears that more cow-calf pairs of gray whales are headed for Southern California waters on their northbound journey back to Alaska. In the longest mammalian migration known to man—8,500 to 12,500 miles—the leviathans are now departing the lagoons of Baja California and headed back to the nutrient-rich Bering Sea.
The first wave of northbound whales passed by Southern California in March and continues to filter through and up the coast. Now, a second wave of these incredible creatures is making their way up the coast and should continue to delight Southern California whale watchers for weeks to come.
According to Mexico's Secretariat of the Environment and Natural Resources, a record-setting number of gray whales was born in Baja California waters this year. Mexican authorities have counted 1,198 whale calves and 523 adults, a dramatic upsurge from the 599 counted in 2011 and the 183 counted in 2010.
The whale count is the highest it has been since 1996, when environmental authorities counted 2,721 gray whales. Between 2007 and February of 2012, over 3,000 gray whales were born in the warm water lagoons of Baja California.
“We're talking about 3,553 gray whales which have appeared here,” said Juan Rafael Elvira Quesada, Mexican Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources.
In the 1880s and again in the early 1900s, whalers in Mexico hunted the gray whale to the brink of extinction. Early whalers called the gray whale the “devilfish” because of its reputation for a fierce battle and overturning boats when attacked. In the 1930s, the gray whale became protected and in the ’70s, the gray was listed as endangered.
Today, Mexico protects the gray whales in its Baja Lagoons.
“This is the product of a 20-year policy,” Quesada explained. “All of Mexico's sanctuaries and territorial waters are good for the whales. Mexico is working to recover the whale population on this side of the Pacific.”
Far from being a “devilfish,” many now call gray whales “friendlies” because of their penchant for approaching whale watchers and seeking human interaction.
The northbound gray whales pass by some of the largest cities in the world. That brings with it some inherent dangers, such as ship traffic. Another major obstacle for cow-calf pairs is predation by orcas, commonly known as killer whales. Gray whales are an important food source for orcas. One calf can feed up to 30 orcas, serving as an important supplement to the orcas' more regular diet of sea lions and other smaller mammals.
Fishing nets are another obstacle to the gray whales’ migration. Photos of Humpback whales for a recent government report found that more than half of the whales had signs of injuries from fishing gear. Three gray whales have become passing by Southern California this past month alone.
You can witness this dramatic life and death journey as these incredible animals pass by Southern California. It is an amazing journey that you can see in the wild and just a few minutes off our coast.
Local fishing stays steady
The three-quarter-day Tradition out of Redondo Sportfishing continues to see excellent rockfishing, possibly due to the cold water this year that’s stimulated the rockfish population. The crew has scheduled two very special days of fishing on April 25 and 26. Besides fishing, there will be raffles, Fishing with Phil, pro-staffers on deck—all at the same regular price of $60. The crew will also be looking for some surface action, too. The trips depart at 6 a.m. and return around 4 p.m. Call 310-372-2111 or 424-237-0250 for reservations.
Twilight sand bass fishing has been good for the Native Sun out of Long Beach Sportfishing for most of the winter and spring. “We have seen nice big sandies on most trips,” said Captain Gabriel Ceballos. The bass have been taken best on a two-ounce banana leadhead tipped with squid.
On Saturday, Ceballos took a Fishing with Phil group out in the face of a forecast calling for gale-force winds. Ceballos said all along that the winds would back off and that the fish would bite. He was right on. The winds calmed down and the fish put on as good a bite as has been seen all year long.
Lots of big sand bass, a medical emergency at sea, and more on this memorable trip. Ceballos will be out this Friday and Saturday night from 6:30 p.m. until midnight for more twilight action. Call 562-432-8993 for reservations.
If you'd like to go Fishing with Phil, you can find a schedule online at PhilFriedmanOutdoors.com.