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Types of Baleen Whales Seen off of San Diego

San Diego’s coast is renowned for its excellent location regarding marine life observation, especially the sighting of baleen whales. Baleen whales differ from other whales because they do not have teeth. Instead, they have rows of baleen hanging down from each side of their upper jaw. In addition, they also have a double blowhole! These whales use their baleen for filtering gathered minuscule prey from the ocean. Baleen whales also tend to be much greater in size than toothed whales. Gray and Blue whales are the most commonly spotted type of baleen whale in San Diego as they travel seasonally along the city’s coastline.

California Gray Whale

The California Gray Whale is a large baleen whale typically seen off the San Diego coast during the Winter and Spring months. Gray whales travel by the thousands along the California coastline every December, heading to the warm, salty lagoons of Mexico. The mammals make the 6,000 mile voyage to breed and give birth to their calves in the early springtime. After spending about a month in the lagoons of Baja California, the Grays turn around and head back up the coast with their young to their feeding grounds in the Bering Strait of Alaska. In total, the whales travel a total of 12,000 miles making it one of the longest annual migrations completed of any mammal. Gray whales can reach about 49 feet long and weigh up to 72,000 lbs when they’re fully grown making this mammal hard to miss when out whale watching.

Blue Whale

Throughout the Summer and Fall, whale watchers on the San Diego coast will catch views of the largest mammal in the world, the Blue whale. With an average length of over 80 feet, this majestic marine mammal weighs over 300,000 pounds. Due to its grand size, Blue whales must consume four to six tons of krill each day. This provides such an amazing sight for all San Diego visitors on Next Level Sailing whale watching tours. Blue Whales are found in oceans all around the world but, in the Pacific Ocean, they range from the Gulf of Alaska all the way to Costa Rica. The Gulf of Alaska is an area rich in food, while Costa Rica is an ideal location for the whales to migrate to breed and calve. Unfortunately, Blue whales are currently listed as an endangered species with only about 2,500 left in the North Pacific population, but the animal stays prevalent in San Diego’s waters.

Humpback Whales

animal on the water

Humpback Whales, Minke Whales and Fin whales are also baleen whales that are commonly spotted during whale watch cruises off of San Diego. Humpback whales are agile baleen whales that are usually dark gray to dark brown with various amounts of stark white on their flippers, flukes, and belly.  They have lengthy, wing shaped flippers and a petite, irregularly-shaped dorsal fin. Adult Humpback females grow larger than male Humpbacks and can extend as long as a school bus, or up to 50 feet long, and weigh up to 40 tons.

About double the size of Humpbacks, Fin whales are elongated and sleek with a v-shaped head. Adults are about as long as 2 school buses or up to 85 feet long and weigh up to 80 tons. Similar to Humpbacks, Fin females grow larger than males. They are dominantly gray with a white stomach and have a distinct dorsal fin that curves back.