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Gray whales make first appearance of migration season off coast of Oceanside

Gray whales make first appearance of migration season off Oceanside
Posted at 4:03 PM, Dec 06, 2021

OCEANSIDE, Calif. (KGTV) — The captain of a local whale watching boat says the first gray whales of the migration season have made their appearance.

On Saturday afternoon, less than two miles off the coast of Oceanside, the sight of two gray whales greeted Captain Chris Fairbanks and his Oceanside Adventures whale watching tour, as they wrapped up a cruise.

“To see our first gray whales cruising in—knowing migration is going to get going here—it’s exciting,” said Fairbanks.

Fairbanks believes the two gray whales seen in the drone footage are likely young adults on a typical breathing schedule.

“Every time they come up, there are oohh’s and aahh’s, gasps. Everybody claps … What we were watching was them going up for air and then going on a 'sounding.' That’s when they go on their deeper dives, and that’s helping them save energy … four to five breaths, and then go down for about four to six minutes,” said Fairbanks.

Fairbanks say the whales are about five days away from the final destination on their southbound journey.

Gray whales migrate over 7,000 miles every year from their feeding grounds in the Arctic to the lagoons of Baja where they breed and give birth.

Fairbanks tells us this first sighting is pretty much on schedule.

“Typically we do see our first gray whale migrators tricking in in late November and early December. They come in waves, and we’ll see our first big wave hit in January,” said Fairbanks.

Fairbanks says 20,000 to 30,000 gray whales will make the trek. How many will be seen near local shores could depend on how many are those are younger whales.

“Younger whales that haven’t made the trip before will definitely tend to stick closer to shore. It’s a longer route but a safer route,” said Fairbanks.

Fairbanks said the whales will start their northbound trip, beginning in February.