Baja Births and Lagoon Leisure

By Whale Watching Naturalist Nick

Now that we have reached March, some whales are beginning their return trip to Alaska. Gray Whale mothers, however, are still nursing their newborn calves in the lagoons of Baja California. These calves are born at a whopping one third of their adult length, but only about one thirtieth of their adult weight! They will consume almost fifty gallons of their mother’s milk each day in order to gain strength for the journey ahead and build a layer of fat (known as blubber) for insulation in the cold waters off of Alaska.

The lagoons provide warmer and saltier waters than those in the open ocean. This helps both the calves and adults conserve energy both in temperature regulation and swimming. Even with the ease of the lagoon life, lower concentrations of whales have been seen in the lagoons this year when compared with previous years. Some whales may have fed for longer in the arctic during the summer, spreading the timing of the migration. Others may have stopped short of the lagoons due to the warmer waters, especially juvenile Gray Whales that have yet to reach maturity.

Whatever the reason, changes in behavior often make for unique sightings off the coast of San Diego. We may see southbound whales later in the season, or even see the occasional whale spend more time in our area.

Whale Watching season 2019 runs through April 14! Join us on a tour.

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Scripps Institution of Oceanography UC San Diego