Nightly News   |  March 02, 2013

Gray whales make a splash in California

A rare look at a spectacular show of nature, as gray whales make a splash off the coast of Southern California. They've made an impressive comeback and are giving the economy of that region a real boost. NBC's Diana Alvear reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> we've got a rare look at a spectacular show of nature. a big splash being made off the coast of southern california by gray whales. they've made a big comeback and are giving the economy of the region a real boost. n

>> reporter: a couple breaths reveal the giants beneath the surface.

>> we may have one whale here and two whales there.

>> reporter: gray whales making their way south to the delight of their fans and naturalist alyssa janiger.

>> this gois fantastic.

>> reporter: her excitement contagious.

>> woo hoo !

>> the enthusiasm. people looking for them. the first person who spots them saying, look, thar she blows!

>> reporter: an experience that still exists thanks to conservation. prized for their bones and oil the paf gray whales were hunted relentlessly nearly to extension until commercial hunting of great whales was banned. while they still face threats from notes and boat strikes they've become the comeback kids of the pacific. earlier this season an astounding 23 whales were spotted together off of san pedro . their continued success depends on educating younger generations through events like whale watch weekend at cabrillo national monument .

>> i grew up watching the whales and i want my children to debris up seeing tdebris -- grow up seeing the whales not reading about them in a book.

>> they can grow up maybe being an advocate.

>> reporter: at the time when average attendance is down more gray whales sightings are bringing much needed tourist traffic to state and national parks .

>> we've seen a rise in visitation in what would normally be an off-season.

>> reporter: it turns out conservation is great for the economy as well. gray whales are great for business.

>> we're driving the boat in from fishing trips and having to dodge whales.

>> reporter: that was two years ago. san diego whale watcher boats have been filled ever since. a conservation success story that could serve as an example to ensure the natural wonders never cease. nbc news, san diego .