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Featured Image: A mother and calf pair of gray whales migrating south to Baja California were spotted on Jan 5. Photo: Courtesy of Stacie Fox/DolphinSafari.com

By Breeana Greenberg

In early January, passengers aboard Capt. Dave’s Dolphin & Whale Watching Safari’s catamaran spotted a mother and calf pair of gray whales on their migration route south to Baja California.

The whales were the first mother and calf pair of the year to be sighted off the Dana Point Harbor, as the city enters gray whale season, which is celebrated annually in March with the Festival of Whales.

Experts believe gray whales travel so closely to the Dana Point shoreline because the Headlands serve as a landmark for their journeys. The whales migrate south in the fall and winter along the West Coast to Baja. The protected lagoons in Baja offer safety to mate and give birth in a warmer environment away from predators.

When they’re first born, calves are about 15 feet long. Calves gain more than 50 pounds a day while gray whale mothers can lose 30% while nursing. As an adult, gray whales can measure up to 40 to 50 feet in length and weigh 30 to 40 tons.

In spring, gray whales will migrate back up the west coast along with their newborn calves. They travel a total 12,000 miles up and down the coast.

Many pregnant gray whales give birth in Baja, but some give birth along the 6,000-mile journey down the coast.

Dana Point celebrates the gray whale, the area’s biggest migratory whale, during the Festival of Whales. Dana Point’s deep coastal canyons and shorter harbor means that whales can be seen just outside the harbor.

“Dana Point is a year-round destination for whale watching,” Donna Kalez, of Dana Wharf Sportfishing & Whale Watching said. “Right now, we’re entering the gray whale season. So, from December until May is when we see the majority of the gray whales and so our focus is really going to be on the gray whales.”

Breeana Greenberg is the city reporter for the Dana Point Times. She graduated from Chapman University with a bachelor of arts degree in English. Before joining Picket Fence Media, she worked as a freelance reporter with the Laguna Beach Independent. Breeana can be reached by email at bgreenberg@picketfencemedia.com

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