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Gray whales cruising through Southland on northbound migration

March 20, 2012 |  6:01 pm

Gray whale flukes off San Pedro coast

If you missed seeing the gray whales as they swam south to Baja California for the winter, now may be your chance to catch them on their way back north.

Volunteer spotters say the whales' northbound migration through Southern California is reaching a peak. Clear weather helped them count 50 gray whales cruising north past Point Vicente on Monday, their highest tally since last year's peak on March 21, when they saw 64.

"There's a big pulse going through right now," said Alisa Schulman-Janiger, director and coordinator of the American Cetacean Society/Los Angeles Chapter's Gray Whale Census and Behavior Project, which logs whale sightings from the Point Vicente Interpretive Center in Rancho Palos Verdes.

More than 20,000 gray whales migrate each year from Arctic waters to the shallow lagoons and bays of Baja California and reverse course each spring, with the bulk cruising back through Southern California by late March.

If past trends hold true, sometime this week should be a good time to head out to look for them, according to those who keep tabs on the migratory giants.

But they warn that seeing a bunch of gray whales today is no guarantee you'll see them tomorrow.

"A group will come through and then we won't see any for a while," Schulman-Janiger said. "Sometimes the pulse is spread out over several weeks or you can have one-third of the migration in one week.

The one thing you can't do about animal behavior is predict it," she added.


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--Tony Barboza

Photo: A gray whale reveals its flukes off the coast of San Pedro during a whale-watching excursion in December. Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times