Southern California has the highest concentration of rare and endangered Blue Whales in the world according to David Anderson, International Wildlife Film Festival award winner, author of “Lily, A Gray Whale’s Odessy,” and owner of Captain Dave’s Dolphin and Whale Watching Safari in Dana Point. Blue Whale sightings off the Orange County coast number between 1,000 and 2,000 annually.
The whale most frequently observed in this area is blue whales, the largest known animal to ever live on earth, and gray whales, named for gray patches and white mottling on its dark skin. Fin whales and minke whales are also commonly spotted. Occasionally, but not often, seaman spy killer and humpback whales.
Best Times to See Whales in Laguna Beach
Blue whales migrate through Laguna Beach in route to Alaska in the summer and again in the winter on their way to Mexico’s Baja peninsula where they give birth to their calves. The best time to see blue whales is May through October and November. Gray whales are most commonly spotted in winter and spring months – December through April – though some 200 gray whales feed on the coast throughout the year. Fin and minke whales stay in Laguna year around, but they are more commonly seen in the summer.
In Laguna Beach, we are lucky enough to have whales year around. As Anderson put it, “There is no bad time to go out on the water.” Southern California has an abundance of food and whales are able to feed twelve months out of the year.
Finding whales in Laguna Beach
If you want to spot whales from land, the best location is Crescent Point in Laguna Beach or the Headlands in Dana Point, a 121-acre coastal bluff site with scenic vistas. A good pair of binoculars will serve you best and the most you are likely to see is water spouts and the back of a whale.
West Street residents recently reported finding three gray whales on the West Street Beach shoreline. They believe the whales were scraping off barnacles in the shallow water. Apparently, barnacles (crustaceans) attach themselves to gray whale calves at birth and stay with them for life.
For a close look and an in-depth educational experience, boarding a boat with Anderson is probably your best bet. To find whales, he relies on his sight more than anything, but he also has an extensive network of seaman that call him to report whale sightings when he has passengers eager to see an up-close and personal whale and dolphin show.
According to National Geographic, “Blue whales are one of the loudest animals on Earth and can produce sounds louder than a jet engine. Their rhythmic pulses and deep moans are so loud they could theoretically travel halfway across an ocean basin, yet the frequency of these calls is often so low that they are totally inaudible to human ears.” Anderson has special devices such as a hydrophone and an underwater camera on the bow of the boat allows passengers to hear and see whales better.
Danger to Humans
Neither the blue whale or gray whale are considered dangerous. In fact, no whale is considered dangerous to humans. The gray used to be called devil fish because they put up a fearsome fight when confronted with threats to their babies. While whales will attack under provoking circumstances, they are not aggressive and they are not generally considered a threat. In fact, humans are more of a threat to whales. In September 2007, at least three blue whales were killed by ship strikes in the Santa Barbara Channel off Southern California— an alarming number considering scientists expect just one death every few years.