Editor's note: This article has been updated to reflect additional gray whales sighted Monday.
More than 30 gray whales were spotted swimming off the South Bay on Monday, contributing to a record-breaking count of the migrating marine mammals for the month of December, according to a researcher from the American Cetacean Society Los Angeles chapter.
Volunteers with the Gray Whale Census and Behavioral Project at Point Vicente counted 16 single gray whales and two pairs by 11 a.m. Monday; by the end of the day, the count had doubled to 32. Two of the gray whales breached.
So far this month, volunteers have counted 327 southbound gray whales and four northbound whales, "totally blowing away our 30-year record (from December 2011) of 191 southbound, 3 northbound," according to census director Alisa Schulman-Janiger. "We still have over five more viewing hours today and all day tomorrow."
The whale-watching season for gray whales in the South Bay usually runs in the winter and spring while the creatures are on their way to and from Mexico—the longest distance of any marine mammal's migration. The Gray Whale Census, which has taken place annually since 1979, runs from Dec. 1 through May 15.
"Although there are about 21,000 gray whales that migrate down our coast, and what we see from shore is just a percentage of the total number of grays, more of them appear to be utilizing the nearshore migration corridor this season—to our delight!" Schulman-Janiger "Great viewing conditions are also contributing to this phenomenal count."
The best local vantage point for gray whale watching is at the Point Vicente Interpretive Center off Palos Verdes Drive West in Rancho Palos Verdes.