March 4, 2024

Experts and whale watchers have been dazzled by a series of orca sightings in the south California coast which is described as “extremely rare”.

A pod of 10 whales – including a calf just a few months old – has been off the coast of southern California for the past two weeks, between Oxnard and San Diego. Images from social media show the giant creatures leaping into the air to catch dolphins and come within feet of boats full of eager onlookers.

The whales are part of the population of eastern tropical Pacific orcas that live along the waters of Mexico and Central America, but can also venture as far west as Hawaii. Whale watching boats are usually on high alert in December and January, says Jessica Rodriguez, the education and communications manager at Newport Landing & Davey’s Locker Whale Watching, but she says it’s very important to catch a glimpse of so many orcas in this location. gain. unusual.

“You usually see these kinds of killer whales in Mexico and South America,” she says. “Seeing them even just once off the coast of Orange County is rare, but multiple consecutive sightings over the course of two weeks are extremely rare.”

Does Instagram allow content?

This article contains content provided by Instagram. We ask for your consent before loading anything, as they may use cookies and other technologies. To view this content, click ‘Allow and continue’.

In the fall of 2018, a group of whales from the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean spent 10 days in the area, but this year was already longer and there were more encounters with the whales.

It is not known why the whales spend so much time here this year, but there are theories. Rodriguez says they may hang around because of the warmer water conditions in this year’s El Niño.

“They’re usually warm-water killer whales, and they like to hang out in those warmer waters off the coast of Baja,” she says.

The abundance of their main prey – bottlenose and common dolphin – may also keep them in the area, says Alisa Schulman-Janiger, the lead research biologist for the California Killer Whale Project. There are also dolphins in Mexico, but she thinks the megapodes of dolphins in California – sometimes numbering in the thousands – are more naive about recognizing threats from killer whales, which makes it easier to catch them.

Does Instagram allow content?

This article contains content provided by Instagram. We ask for your consent before loading anything, as they may use cookies and other technologies. To view this content, click ‘Allow and continue’.

Very little is known about orcas in this region, in part because transboundary science is challenging. They mostly eat marine mammals such as dolphins – but can also hunt fish and sharks. In 2008, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) issued a catalog of the famous individual killer whales in this area – this amounted to 192 from 52 different groups living in the region. There are probably still many today, as many of the whales are juveniles.

This makes it a golden opportunity for researchers and whale enthusiasts alike. “This is an unparalleled opportunity for us to document these whales, which include two small calves,” says Schulman-Janiger. She adds that scientists hope to document their feeding behavior, prey sharing and interactions with each other and boats.

skip past newsletter promotion

There are other killer whales that live in California waters – approx 105 mammal-eating whales make the area their home year-round, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. Other ecotypes also travel through: the offshore killer whales that focus on eating sharks and rays, and even the famous Southerners of the Pacific Northwest sometimes arrive in Northern California. The groups are unlikely to interact, says Schulman-Janiger.

A mother orca and calf in Canada.
A mother orca and calf in Canada. Photo: slowmotiongli/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Seeing the orcas of the eastern tropical Pacific was something special. They are social, intelligent, family oriented and an apex predator – the largest species of dolphin. Rodriguez says she’s seen the 20-foot-long orcas leap 10 feet out of the air to catch prey, then share the feast among the entire group. Sometimes they also wounded a dolphin to let the youths practice for the final kill.

Many of the whale watching captains have also observed that this group is particularly friendly to boats – they don’t seem concerned about people watching them while they are actively hunting, which is rare. Schulman-Janiger said the whales might see the wake of the boats as a fun surfing opportunity. The whales look almost as social-media-happy as teenagers as they frolic for the camera, Rodriguez said, adding, “they come right up to the boat and stop just to look at the people”.

The whales even use the boats as a tool for hunting: they position themselves next to boats to prevent echolocation of approaching dolphins and then dive under the boat and push the dolphin into the air. This makes for spectacular scenes for whale-watchers on board.

“Seeing these creatures really excites a lot of people,” says Rodriguez, “and ultimately we want to instill that sense of wonder and appreciation for the ocean to promote conservation and wild sightings with the whales.”

56
40
93
59
00
25
56
55
62
18
34
92
64
11
23
65
23
87
71
23
08
45
70
45
57
16
21
43
78
97
88
50
90
62
52
61
46
90
46
87
55
72
50
18
32
72
15
05
65
02
63
53
66
97
92
42
34
43
62
81
10
29
70
97
46
90
92
41
01
71
38
59
31
56
07
77
56
87
88
16
08
61
45
05
73
42
84
28
19
71
35
89
40
72
54
14
91
46
95
94
96
96
69
33
11
39
64
90
40
27
33
68
38
01
96
52
16
28
93
19
84
64
31
01
09
96
45
66
80
15
32
87
51
58
45
84
68
27
10
47
88
00
83
59
79
10
94
63
09
32
88
96
56
75
93
50
93
58
26
93
58
90
43
21
91
74
42
76
26
88
94
05
89
47
90
54
52
66
85
80
02
86
52
60
64
43
05
85
59
36
07
73
85
92
89
85
47
35
22
12
24
58
61
49
19
39
06
81
15
95
47
49
25
18
44
40
33
20
18
53
91
02
92
20
40
02
77
75
05
72
32
68
65
27
10
96
09
49
59
71
33
16
97
77
88
32
80
07
41
22
21
65
18
03
50
45
18
16
85
35
56
98
73
48
32
10
62
17
31
65
12
98
88
37
61
86
10
47
86
80
06
55
88
58
28
91
71
84
34
64
36
19
84
33
54
56
00
81
01
92
22
66
69
67
80
56
32
95
45
12
18
59
95
46
93
63
14
56
24
03
06
54
32
83
08
72
57
18
63
47
65
55
25
52
15
38
72
10
37
21
34
67
96
13
78
91
75
74
46
23
26
07
80
38
46
34
88
41
85
58
24
19
99
80
50
86
92
92
70
96
67
03
93
37
72
21
72
34
62
56
79
06
49
05
50
66
84
56
22
95
45
56
35
88
65
95
36
28
47
55
37
26
85
82
28
50
28
34
39
94
46
56
91
97
73
62
88
87
88
75
37
00
70
48
98
43
23
28
27
74
82
56
52
48
01
66
45
39
24
10
55
00
66
56
47
70
90
20
47
95
08
53
52
63
16
47
94
25
18
65
03
53
97
85
88
66
56
42
98
07
00
19
02
87
24
79
12
76
93
46
98
10
84
91
36
72
96
14
23
00
69
28
18
34
19
80
30
53
03
63
25
55
82
24
69
96
95
94
56
40
19
12
23
48
94
14
19
20
81
51
02
53
35
30
77
54
44
05
33
36
84
97
83
88
78
86
19
85
89
19
99
23
33
01
18
64
59
05
51
88
36
93
30
55
89
45
95
65
71
14
20
15
33
09
18
15
33
95
76
83
84
08
05
40
19
43
27
73
41
99
84
15
11
06
04
78

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *