The first gray whale of the season was spotted off Mission Bay by a whale watching tour on Friday.
The spotting of the gray whale, which migrates from the chilly arctic waters to the warmer waters off Baja, California, every winter was unusually early this year, San Diego Whale Watch operators said.
Operators of the whale watching company said on Friday, the boat captain had heard from a fisherman that the gray whale was spotted off the coast of La Jolla an hour before the scheduled whale watch trip.
Once the whale watching tour cleared the Mission Bay jetties, they spotted about 20 Pacific white-sided dolphins. As the boat stopped to watching the dolphins, the whale surfaced up amid the dolphin pod.
The whale was pregnant, company operators said.
Gray whales are generally not spotted until later in December, San Diego Whale Watch operators said, but are believed to be here early because melting polar ice caps are providing easier access to food.
Last year, more than 650 gray whales were spotted by the year-round whale watching company.