by Eric Austin Yee

Once again Dana Wharf Whale Watching has had an amazing year of sightings and surprises! Here are just a few of the highlights we experienced in 2016!

False Killer Whales – False killer whales are a rare sighting for the Southern California whale watch fleet.  Dana Wharf Whale Watching was lucky enough to have seen these animals twice in 2016.  One of these sightings was extra special when our guest were able to view a newborn false killer whale calf take its first few breaths.  The pod of about 20 false killer whales headed up our coast with the new youngster and returned to the area about a month later.  Our newborn was re-spotted along with mom back in its birthplace off the Dana Point coastline.  False killer whales are believed to have a low birth rate, a female might produce a calf only once every seven years.  This makes the special visit from this pod very significant.

Bryde’s Whale – The warm waters of El Nino brought in some out of the area cetacean visitors to Dana Point.  In late September we had a sighting from one of these unique whales.  Bryde’s whales (pronounced “broodus”) usually are found in waters that are warmer than normal Southern California water temperatures.  El Nino brought us local ocean temperatures in the high seventies for months.  These warm ocean temps allow Bryde’s whales to call Southern California a temporary home.  Researchers have IDed only about a dozen Bryde’s whales off the coast of California, Oregon, and Washington.

Offshore Orcas – We were spoiled to have 3 sightings of a huge pod of offshore orca in 2016.  These majestic animals are known to have a huge range of travel.  A particular offshore orca was seen in Dutch Harbor, Alaska and then off the coast of Dana Point, that is a 2756 mile long trip.  Each of our sightings had an estimated 30 to 40 individuals in a widespread pod.  Offshore orca roam the ocean looking to prey on large fish and even sharks.  Mature offshore orca have teeth worn to the gums from the rough, sandpaper-like skin of sharks.

Shark Search Trips – 2016 brought a new type of excursion to Dana Wharf Whale Watching, our Shark Search Saturdays.  These unique trips allowed our guest to search for various sharks that call the coast of Dana Point home.  Sharks such as white sharks, mako sharks, blue sharks and 2 types of hammerhead sharks, have been seen by our fleet.  These trips became quite popular and raised awareness of these often misunderstood animals.