It’s the time of year when the gray whales start passing by Southern California for their annual migration south.
The mass winter migration sends thousands of the giant whales from their winter feeding areas in Alaska down the coast to the warm-water lagoons of Mexico, passing California’s coast along the way down and again during spring as they make their way back north.
Hopefuls wanting to catch a glimpse of the commuters make for busy time of the year for the charters that operate out of the Dana Point Harbor.
Taking advantage of the interest, Dana Wharf Whale Watching has dubbed the day after Thanksgiving as “Gray Friday,” an alternative to the traditional shopping day Black Friday.
“This is the time. We always say to ‘opt outside’ for Gray Friday, it’s when we traditionally spot the gray whales for the season,” Dana Wharf manager Donna Kalez said. “We have deals and promotions and raffles during the day. We just celebrate the gray whales, it’s their annual return. It’s a family tradition.”
The Dana Point Harbor is currently being considered for candidacy as a Whale Heritage Site, established by the World Cetacean Alliance.
A Whale Heritage Site is considered an outstanding location where cetaceans – whales, dolphins, or porpoises – are embraced throughout the local community’s cultural, economy and leaders, and the tourism is conducted in a sustainable way.
“Whale Heritage Sites give tourists a transparent and easy way to select responsible whale and dolphin watching destinations, encouraging them to experience these incredible animals in their natural habitat, in an authentic and respectful way,” the designation’s organizers said.
There are eight candidate destinations from around the world – Dana Point is the only in the United States. Other areas are as far as New Zealand, Spain, Brazil, South Africa and Costa Rica. To be approved, an area must show it has been “focusing on protection, sustainability, education, research, public access and awareness.”
The international committee that reviews each site’s extensive application will be meeting later this month and decisions are expected to be reached by year end. Already there are certified communities in Australia and South Africa.
“To have Dana Point recognized by the world as a Whale Heritage Site is a dream and has been a goal of mine for some time,” said Kalez, who in recent years helped get the community trademarked as the Dolphin and Whale Watching Capital of the World. “Dana Point has long been an incredible destination to watch and learn about whales and dolphins and now we want the world to know.”
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