Rare right whale sightings in Southern California - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Rare right whale sightings in Southern California

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Photos and video courtesy of Bruce Long and Mark Hoffman. Photos and video courtesy of Bruce Long and Mark Hoffman.

SAN DIEGO (NEWS 8) — Another rare whale was spotted off of our coast and that has scientists very excited.  

A right whale was spotted back in May near the Channel Islands just a month after another right whale was spotted in April near La Jolla Shores, and these whales are usually not spotted in Southern California.  

Seeing News 8's report from La Jolla in April, Pam Hoffman from Camarillo shared the new encounter by her husband Mark and friends on the sailboat Zoarces.  Biologist Yasutaka Imai confirmed that the whale off Malibu is different from the La Jolla whale.

They say the sighting is amazing as there are only about 30 right whales left in the eastern North Pacific and they're usually found near Alaska. 

"That's a new whale," said Dr. Phil Clapham of NOAA Marine Mammal Laboratory about the whale spotted in May. "The pictures were excellent and we ran them through our catalogue a few days ago and it's not a whale we know."  

Seeing one right whale in Southern California is very rare so seeing two this year has been a surprise.  

"To see two of these animals in a short period of time - especially in an area that is not known as their primary habitat - is very fortunate," said NOAA Research Wildlife Biologist Jeff Moore.  

Whale biologist Phil Clapham says they're not coming here for food, because our waters don't really have a lot of what they eat. 

"They feed on these tiny little animals called copepod - which are actually the size of a grain of rice," said Clapham. "And somehow they manage to get - in the case of a really big right whale - perhaps 3 or 4 tons of these a day."  

It's not clear where north pacific right whales go for the winter, so this could be part of their migration.  

Unfortunately, male right whales greatly outnumber females, so the population, if it is growing, isn't happening fast.   

It's not known if the whale spotted off Malibu is male or female, but it's estimated to be less than 10 years old. 

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