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Blue whales, due soon off SoCal, might be rediscovering historic territory

May 11, 2009 | 11:41 am

Bluewhale

Marine mammal enthusiasts in the San Pedro and Santa Barbara channels are encountering sporadic humpback whales and anticipate the arrival of blue whales, which generally arrive in late spring and linger through the summer.

Southern California whale lovers are thrilled to have the world's largest creature in their midst, albeit seasonally, and most will be pleased to learn there's good news regarding an endangered species once hunted to the brink of extinction: Blue whales appear to be reestablishing historic migration routes beyond California to the Pacific Northwest and even the Gulf of Alaska.

The journal Marine Mammal Science cites 15 cases in which blue whales were seen off British Columbia and the Gulf of Alaska. The research, by several groups, marks the first known migration of blue whales off California to the northern areas since the end of commercial whaling in 1965. (Blue whales migrate to and from California from a vast offshore region beyond Costa Rica.)

Four of the 15 whales were identified as animals previously observed off California, suggesting a reestablishment of the great leviathans' historical migration pattern. That's good news, to be sure, but count me among those hoping enough of the 2,000 or so West Coast blues will continue to linger at least long enough for SoCal whale-watchers to get a few good looks.

-- Pete Thomas

Photo by Stephen Osman / Los Angeles Times

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