Submitted by Captain Dave's Dolphin & Whale Watching Safari:
As a pair of gray whales on their return trip to Alaska made their way north past Dana Point, one whale threw itself out of the water five times in front of surprised whale watchers aboard Captain Dave's Dolphin and Whale Watching Safari. The whales were just two miles off of Dana Point Harbor. So close to shore the harbor jetty is visible! This unusual behavior is called breaching. Scientists don't know exactly why whales breach. It may be that gray whales breach for many reasons such as to look around, communicate with a fellow whale, or to remove parasites or something that is hurting them. Sometimes it's a sign of aggression and sometimes it's just for the sheer fun of it!
Gray whales make one of the longest migrations of any mammal and are seen every winter off Orange County. The whales travel 10,000 to 12,000 miles from the Chukchi and Bering Seas to the lagoons of Baja, California, where they mate and have their calves. About 19,000 gray whales pass by Dana Point from December through April. They are often spotted within just a mile or so of the shoreline, as these whales were, and some believe they use Dana Point's headlands as a landmark on their journey. This weekend Dana Point Harbor will celebrate the 42nd annual Festival of Whales with ocean-themed events and activities that have an emphasis on education and environmental responsibility.
Throughout their migration gray whales face many challenges and hazards one of which takes the lives of nearly 1,000 whales and dolphins every day. Scientists estimate that 308,000 dolphins and whales die because of fishing gear entanglement every year worldwide. Captain Dave organized Orange County's only whale disentanglement group in 2008 and has successfully disentangled several gray whales, including Lily, whose disentanglement made national headlines. Capt. Dave authored the book, "Lily, A Gray Whale's Odyssey", a magnificent photographic journey of a gray whale's migration. For more information visit http://www.dolphinsafari.com.