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Scientists: Record Number Of Gray Whales Migrating South This Season

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Whale spotters have reported an uptick  in gray whale sightings from Dana Point up to Rancho Palos Verdes. (Photo credit: Dale Frink/DolphinSafari.com)

Whale spotters have reported an uptick in gray whale sightings from Dana Point up to Rancho Palos Verdes. (Photo credit: Dale Frink/DolphinSafari.com)

RANCHO PALOS VERDES (CBSLA.com) — A record number of whales are migrating southbound through the waters off the Palos Verdes Peninsula, according to scientists with the American Cetacean Society Los Angeles Gray Whale Census and Behavior Report.

Some 1,055 gray whales have been tracked southbound en route to nursing and calving waters off Baja California so far this season, compared to 704 at the same time last year. Scientists also said December was the highest month on record.

This weekend marked the third highest count of southbound gray whales since the ACS/LA Gray Whale Census and Behavior Project began 31 years ago, and that migration continues, Alisa Schulman-Janiger, project director for the census, said. This year’s migration is also the highest since the 1997-1998 season.

Good weather and more gray whales traveling closer to shore could have contributed to the increased count, she said.

The study tracks whales seen from the Point Vicente Interpretive Center in Rancho Palos Verdes from Dec. 1 through May 20.

In addition to the gray whales, four fin whales were seen traveling together near shore over the weekend. Once a rare sighting in California waters, fin whales – which are in the same family as the blue and humpback whale – have been reported more often in the past five to six years, Schulman-Janiger said.

February is normally the end of the peak of gray whales’ southbound migration season, but this year has been odd, she said. There appear to be two peaks this year, making it a great year to go out and see the migration firsthand.

(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

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