This photo of a young humpback breaching was captured by Carla Mitroff, a naturalist and photographer, on the morning of Nov. 29 aboard the Dana Pride, which runs from Dana Wharf Whale Watching in Dana Point.
This photo of a young humpback breaching was captured by Carla Mitroff, a naturalist and photographer, on the morning of Nov. 29 aboard the Dana Pride, which runs from Dana Wharf Whale Watching in Dana Point.

By Allison Jarrell

Dana Point lived up to its title of “Whale Capital of the West” over Thanksgiving weekend. A family of orcas was spotted a couple miles from Dana Point on Thanksgiving Day, and an active young humpback whale was seen breaching near Laguna Beach.

Capt. Frank Brennan of Dana Wharf Whale Watching spotted the killer whale pod on Thanksgiving, about two miles out of the harbor. Brennan said the two adults and two juvenile whales were near a continental shelf. He said the orcas were feeding near the edge of the shelf and diving deep, likely to feed on rockfish or giant squid.

“That’s kind of rare for around here,” Brennan said of the orca clan. “It’s been about two years since I saw them last.”

Brennan said the orcas, known as the CA51 family, are from Mexico. Dana Point is about as far north as they travel.

Later in the weekend, a juvenile humpback whale was spotted close to the Laguna Beach shore. The young whale breached 30 times, and at one point launched completely out of the water. It was during Capt. Tom White’s Saturday morning excursion aboard the Dana Pride that whale watchers were treated to the breaching sequence.

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