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Tour spots 20 killer whales off San Francisco in unusual orca sighting

An uncommonly large grouping of orcas for Northern California — roughly two dozen killer whales — were spotted by a whale watching tour off the coast of San Francisco last month, likely gathered together to celebrate a successful hunt for sea lions or seals.

“I screamed ‘orca!’” recalled Michael Pierson, a Oceanic Society naturalist leading the tour, after noticing “those distinct dorsal finds poking out of the water.”

“It was really, really special,” Pearson said in an interview Wednesday.

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Black, who is also the director of the nonprofit California Killer Whale Project, said she’s seen larger groupings of orcas than last month’s two dozen but added that any sighting is special. As she spoke, she watched five swim together in Monterey Bay.

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The Oceanic Society regularly does tours to the Farallon Islands — which include collecting data for scientists and conservationists — and spring is migration season. Pierson and the boat’s captain, Jared Davis, decided to try a different route on May 7 to head out over deeper water.

“We don’t know exactly why this particular group was so big,” he said.

While the adult males, with their distinctive 6 feet-tall dorsal fins, were “definitely a showstopper,” Pierson said the mothers and their calves were also a big hit.

“You could hear the coos and awws from everyone on board,” he said.

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