A young gray whale–believed to be the same whale spotted Wednesday in San Diego’s Mission Bay–was spotted Friday inside Los Angeles-Long Beach Harbor.
The accompanying image, showing a barnacle-covered 16-foot gray whale, was captured early Friday afternoon by Eric Combs for Harbor Breeze Cruises.
The tiny whale–16 feet is about the same size as newborns–probably has been scouring the sandy harbor bottom for possible prey items.
Most of the 22,000 gray whales have already reached their Arctic feeding grounds, having spent the winter in Baja California nursing and mating grounds.
This calf, or very small juvenile, is not with its mother but it appears reasonably healthy.
Perhaps it will show up next in King Harbor in Redondo Beach or, more likely, Marina del Rey, as it slowly travels north.
It’s at least the second small gray whale to be spotted off Southern California during the past few weeks.
In late July, a juvenile gray whale tangled in rope was spotted off San Diego. The rope was removed by good Samaritans off Orange County, and the whale was later spotted inside Cabrillo Marina, within Los Angeles Harbor.
Gray whales feed along the bottom on small crustaceans, such as amphipods, during the Arctic feeding season. But the mammals are highly opportunistic–they prey on more items than any other species of whale–and will even feed on small fish and shrimp-like krill.
Alisa Schulman-Janiger, a whale researcher, posted this statement Friday afternoon on Facebook:
"NOAA is asking for vessels to please keep give this whale some breathing space. It may decide to linger in our harbor for a time, possibly feeding on benthic (bottom) fauna; in the 1980's, a young gray whale stayed and fed in Long Beach Harbor for four months!"