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Blue whale off Dana Point resembled 'Jaws' to some observers

August 21, 2012 |  7:08 am

It may have looked like "Jaws," the famous shark from the blockbuster movie, but it wasn't.

A blue whale nicknamed "Scratches" by the crew at Dana Wharf Sportfishing entertained whale watchers over the weekend, according to KTLA-TV.

The whale's big dorsal fin looked scary to some, who joked the whale was "doing his 'Jaws' impression." 

A spokeswoman at the off-shore excursion company told the TV station they've been seeing blue whales off the coast of Southern California since June.

Blue whales are the world's largest mammals, growing to more than 100 feet in length. The whale-watching season in Southern California runs until October.

To the north, the Associated Press reports that tourists from around the world have been flocking to Monterey Bay to catch a glimpse of the massive marine mammals, including impressive numbers of blue whales.

Longtime observers say they've seen a sharp increase in endangered blue and humpback whales feeding near California's shores, where they spend the spring and summer before heading to their winter breeding grounds off Mexico and Central America.

“It's phenomenal that these humongous creatures are out there and we just get to go out on a boat and watch them,” said Santa Cruz resident Susan Stuart after a recent cruise.

What's bringing the whales so close to shore is a bumper harvest of their favorite food: tiny, shrimplike critters known as krill.

Strong northwest winds have been pushing up cold, nutrient-rich waters from the ocean bottom, a phenomenon known as upwelling. That has fueled blooms of phytoplankton that have led to an explosion of krill, the main food source of blue and humpback whales.

“The season overall has been pretty exceptional and we're not done,” said Nancy Black, a marine biologist with Monterey Bay Whale Watch, which offers bay cruises twice daily.

Federal officials are working with conservation groups and the shipping industry on a plan to help protect the whales around San Francisco Bay. They want to reroute ship traffic and improve tracking of whales to reduce collisions.

"When you see a whale in the wild, it's a life-changing experience,” said Maureen Gilbert, an on-board naturalist for Santa Cruz Whale Watching. “You're never the same person after you've had that kind of encounter with a wild animal.”

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-- From a Times staff writer

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