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Southbound Gray Whale Migration Begins

With a round-trip of up to 14,000 miles, gray whales have one of the longest migrations known to man.

One of the season's first southbound gray whales was spotted Wednesday morning off the coast of the South Bay, marking the beginning of the gray whale Mexican migration season.

According to Alisa Schulman-Janiger of the Los Angeles chapter of the American Cetacean Society, gray whale was spotted off the Manhattan Beach Pier at about 8:30 a.m. by Roundhouse Aquarium Co-Director Val Miller. It was later seen off Topaz Avenue in Redondo Beach, then Bluff Cove and around Point Vicente in Palos Verdes, she said.

Capt. Carl Mayhugh aboard the whale-watching vessel Christopher out of Long Beach's Harbor Breeze Cruises observed the whale in the mid-afternoon in the water off the Trump National Golf Course.

Though other gray whales have been spotted over the last month, "(Wednesday's) sighting was one of the first southbound grays sighted," Janiger said in an email to Patch. "It was most likely a small adult whale."

The gray whale migration is one of the longest known to man, averaging 10,000-14,000 miles round-trip between the Bering and Chukchi seas to the Baja California lagoons. The 30- to 40-ton baleen whales can grow up to 50 feet in length.

Whales migrating to south to Baja California normally start passing the Palos Verdes Peninsula near the end of November, and the ACS/LA will kick off its annual Gray Whale Census and Behavior Project on Saturday.

The project, which is in its 30th year, records the number of gray whales migrating to Baja and back. Between Dec. 1 and May 20 of last year, volunteers spotted 672 southbound gray whales, and 1133 northbound gray whales, according to data provided by Janiger.

"Our cliffside post is on the patio of the Pt. Vicente Interpretive Center … 125 feet above kelp beds and rocky shoreline, with a seafloor that drops off abruptly nearshore," said Janiger, who is the program coordinator. "Trained volunteers collect data on gray whales and other cetaceans (identifications, counts and behaviors)."

Volunteers observe the gray whales through binoculars and spotting scopes.

Those interested in volunteering should contact Janiger at janiger@cox.net.

Harbor Breeze Cruises is currently running gray whale and dolphin cruises out of Long Beach. For schedules and to purchase tickets, visit the website at 2seewhales.com.

In Redondo Beach, the Voyager will begin its whale-watching season Dec. 27.

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