After bad news from California, some good news.
From Wildlife Extra:
For the second year running record numbers of whales spotted off the coast of Southern California
The number of whale sightings off the Southern California coast are up considerably on normal counts, reports the San Gabriel Valley Tribune.
Sightings of gray whales — about 20,000 making their annual migration from the Bering Sea to Mexico — were headed for a second record December in as many years, while orcas and rare blue whales also arrived on the Los Angeles coast as Christmas week visitors.
The marine mammal explosion for the second year running has aroused great excitement in the marine community.
Scientists can’t explain the reason for the increase, but speculate on warmer waters, more food in the Arctic, or even possibly more citizen scientists combing the seas for sightings.
Even with a fading El Niño, the waters off the Pacific coast are warmer.
“It is hard to say if it is because the waters are warmer,” says Kera Mathes, marine biologist with the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach. “But if you have consistently warmer waters, things will change.”
Warmer waters could have produced more food in the North, where grey whales bulk up for the long journey south, she said.
Fin whales, an endangered species known for their shark-like dorsal fin and long, slender body, are the world’s second-largest whale species and, unusually, they are appearing off Long Beach, San Pedro and Palos Verdes.
A new theory postulates a permanent population of fin whales may live off the coast of these Channel Islands.
The real record-breakers are the grey whales. Last year, the American Cetacean Society’s Los Angeles Chapter counted 364 grey whales, the highest seen in December in 31 years, and considerably more than the previous December’s tally of 191. As of 29 December, the census stood at 326, just 39 shy of a record.
With about 20 grey whales seen a day there’s a very good chance the record has already been broken.
Gitante Serrato, a volunteer with the Cabrillo Marine Museum Whale Watcher Naturalists, said one theory for the higher number of whale sightings is the additional eyes.
“Whale-watching has become a much bigger deal in the last 10 years. More people are out there looking,” said Serrato, a resident of San Pedro. The museum and the aquarium have increased outreach. Also, boats and naturalists have teamed up to enhance the whale-watching experience, she said.
While Salas hopes for more record whale sightings, which can translate into more ticket sales, Mathes wasn’t sure if the December whale rush will carry over into January and February.
Another theory revolves around the clear, dry weather, which increases visibility. If more storms arrive, the count could go down.