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Rare sighting of killer whales off SoCal coastline

January 3, 2012 |  6:54 pm

Killer whales spotted Tuesday afternoon on a whale watching vessel off Dana Point.

A group of roving killer whales is being spotted up and down the coast of Southern California.

Experts who track the killer whales, or orcas, say most of the sightings in the last few weeks have been of the same two family groups as they travel along the coastline in search of sea lions and seals to eat.

On Sunday and Monday, observers cataloging the surge of migrating gray whales from the Point Vicente Interpretive Center saw 10 killer whales off the Palos Verdes Peninsula.

Then on Tuesday, the whale-watching vessel Dana Pride spotted seven to 10 of the marine mammals, known for their distinctive black-and-white markings, off the Orange County coast.

"Seeing killer whales is once in a lifetime," said Donna Kalez, general manager of Dana Wharf Sportfishing & Whale Watching, which had two excursions in a row encounter killer whales outside Dana Point Harbor on Tuesday afternoon. "That's unheard of. We're very excited."

The visitors are thought to be part of a transient population of killer whales that is most commonly seen around Monterey Bay on the Central Coast and include seven individuals from one family, known as CA 51, and three from another called CA 140, said Alisa Schulman-Janiger, head of the California Killer Whale Project.

"They're bascially Monterey-based whales on an excursion. And in my opinion, they're finding this to their liking," said Schulman-Janiger, whose group uses photos and video to identify and catalog the marine mammals.

"There's lots of sea lions and no other competition," Schulman-Janiger said. "They're the only show in town."

In the last month, she said, some of the same killer whales have been seen near the Channel Islands, off the coast of Ventura and Newport Beach and for a time, back in Monterey Bay.


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Photo: Killer whales spotted Tuesday afternoon on a whale watching vessel off Dana Point. Credit: Dana Wharf Sportfishing & Whale Watching