Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Killer whales, after a short break, return to Southland waters

Transient killer whales, which made local and national news headlines when they appeared off Southern California for four consecutive days to kick off the new year, are back off the Palos Verdes area.

Passengers aboard the Voyager out of Redondo Sportfishingencountered the same group of 10 orcas just before noon on Tuesday.

"They said they saw nine or 10 so the group size is about right," said Alisa Schulman-Janiger, a Los Angeles-based killer whale researcher.

She later confirmed that these were the same killer whales.

The news spread quickly. Passengers aboard the Christopher out of Harbor Breeze Cruises in Long Beach also enjoyed close encounters with the boat-friendly predators, which appear to have taken a strong liking to Southern California and its bounty of sea lions.

The orcas had killed at least one sea lion and were spyhopping and vocalizing, which they often do after a kill.

Schulman-Janiger said she received reports from fishermen that a group of killer whales—perhaps the same group—was off Malibu for several days before appearing off the Palos Verdes Peninsula Jan. 1. Before that at transient orcas were seen off Ventura, so it seems they've at least temporarily relocated to Southern California.

Transient orcas are more commonly seen off Monterey. Those that have been visiting local waters include members of the CA51 and CA 140 family groups. Those that were off Ventura were from the CA 140 group, and the CA 51s might have been nearby.

The CA 51s (seven orcas, including two calves), which often travel with one or two smaller family groups, have made several appearances locally during the past two years.

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