Summer peak season for blue whale watching

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Whale enthusiasts and scientists get the summertime blues right around now. That’s because it’s peak season for blue whales in the waters off the coast of Southern California.

Scientists say about 2,000 blue whales travel and feed in the waters off the Pacific coast from spring to fall. Research biologist John Calambokidis with Cascadia Research in Washington state has photos of almost all of them.

"We have ones called Freckles, Maude, Chop Fin."

The research biologist helps the National Marine Fisheries Service monitor the whale population.

Blue whales are endangered and vulnerable. They’re still recovering from being hunted to near extinction before this country banned whaling. More of the cetaceans have died after big ships struck them in the last three years than in the previous quarter century. Next week, Calambokidis will try to find out why by studying the shipping lanes off the coast.

"[We'll be] looking at the blue whales that are occurring there, identifying locations where there seems to be conflicts and also looking at how the blue whales react and interact with the ships. Do they avoid them? Are they doing behaviors that make them more or less vulnerable to ship strikes and how does that suggest we can try to reduce those?"

West Coast blue whales travel the offshore waters from Central America to the Gulf of Alaska feeding on tiny krill, their exclusive food source.