Reports on the Gray Whale Migration cover

Reports on the Gray Whale Migration


It's a busy time of year for migrating whales - over a thousand have been sighted, going north or south. This is only a small proportion of the entire migratory population, but they've presented us with some "spectacular" viewing opportunities!
This article combines excerpts from recent updates by the Aquarium’s whale watching blogger, Julien.

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Reports on the Gray Whale Migration

Over One Thousand

February 4: That’s right, there have been over one thousand gray whales passing by Point Vicente either going north or south this migratory season! There have been about 1,292 total gray whales sighted!

Now, this does not mean these are the only grays that have passed by the coast, but rather, the only grays that have been seen during the daytime hours by the American Cetacean Society’s annual census. This means that there are many more whales travelling past the island of Catalina and during the evening, since there are 22,000 to 25,000 individuals in this population.

Eye See You!

A spectacular and rare shot of a gray whale's beautiful eye. | Tim Hammond

Eye See You!

There have been some spectacular whale watches recently with multiple grays per trip and some great breaching behavior as well. We often see many courting grays around this time in February and even whales rolling around each other at the surface which often indicates mating behavior.

Dolphins Too!

Common dolphins porpoising near the boat. | Erik Combs

Dolphins Too!

The last few weeks we have seen little activity from other species besides a few fin whales here and there, but the dolphins are still being sighted quite frequently.

The Whole Whale

February 18: With the presence of so many gray whales this time of year, we are bound to witness some interesting behaviors. We have been seeing some breaching and rolling behavior, which is often interpreted as courting or playful behavior.

In the last couple of weeks, with the influx of so many small groups of whales, playful whales have been spotted frequently. We have seen pairs of whales rolling around each other at the surface. This is so exciting to watch because you really get to see the whole gray whale.

Sight To See

Their pectoral flippers, head, fluke, and even belly will often emerge from the depths as they are rolling around at the surface. It’s also a great time to see their interesting markings and watch the whales take a break from their exhausting migration and just stay in one place.

Most of the time, when we see this kind of behavior, the gray whale is usually with another gray whale, but this is not always the case.


This is one of the amazing shots of the rolling gray whale that was showing its head and tail at the same time. | Aquarium of the Pacific

Whale "Sit-Ups"

Recently, during our busy President’s Day/Valentine’s weekend, a very packed whale watch boat got to see something super interesting! A gray whale was lying at the surface, belly up, and rolling around side to side as well as ‘doing whale sit-ups,’ thrashing its head and tail out of the water simultaneously. But, this whale was not alone.

Roll Over

Shot of the whale rolling around and a Pacific white sided dolphin diving around it. | Aquarium of the Pacific

Roll Over

There happened to be dolphins (common and Pacific white-sided) joining the whale in this playful behavior! The dolphins were even making contact with the whale while travelling and porpoising.

We have seen gray whales ‘play’ with dolphins and vice versa, but this was something that was a little out of the ordinary! The photos show the close proximity the dolphins were to the whale, so check them out! It really makes me wonder; what is going on in their big beautiful brains?


Other than the plethora of gray whales (1,454 counted by the census at the moment), we have been seeing a few active humpbacks, some fin whales, and quite a few Pacific white-sided dolphins.

One of the whale sightings was very mysterious. In the photos taken and witnesses of the sightings, we could not tell if it was a fin whale or not. Fin whales will always have a white lower right jaw, but this whale appeared to have a faint gray right jaw.

Mystery Sighting

A peculiar photo that shows the right side of a alleged fin whale. Thought, the normal white side is absent. This could mean it is not a fin whale, some kind of hybrid, or one of the rare sei or Bryde's whales that have been seen before. | Tim Hammond

Mystery Sighting

The whale’s dorsal fin was also very peculiar and unlike most fin whale’s dorsal fins. What whale was it, then? Well, we do have reported fin whale hybrids, Sei whales, and Bryde’s whales that have been sighted in the past.