Beluga Whale Sighted Off San Diego Coast Mystifies Scientists

By Jason G. Goldman.

It was a balmy Friday morning in June when Domenic Biagini, whale-watching tour captain and wildlife photographer, steered his 25-foot boat out of San Diego’s Mission Bay with six clients on board. The plan was to find some whales—perhaps a migrating blue whale—so he radioed Lisa LaPointe, another tour captain, to see if she’d seen any that day.

“Dom, we just saw a pearly white, 15-foot animal that didn’t have a dorsal fin,” he recalls her saying over the radio. “This is the pearliest white you can imagine.”

It definitely wasn’t a blue whale. Or a humpback or an orca, or any of the other species he usually sees while out on a whale-watching trip. What she was describing sounded like a beluga, but those aren’t supposed to be found anywhere near California waters.

An hour later, LaPointe radioed Biagini again, insisting that what she had seen really was a beluga. “Nobody’s going to believe us if we don’t have undeniable proof,” Lapointe told Biagini, urging him to help document what she saw. He navigated to her location so he could use his drone to film the animal.