When gray whales feed planktonically, they roll onto their right side while their fluke remains above the surface, or they apply the skimming method seen in other baleen whales (skimming the surface with their mouth open).  Mothers make this journey accompanied by their calves, usually hugging the shore in shallow kelp beds, and fight viciously to protect their young if they are attacked, earning gray whales the moniker, devil fish. As far as the north western Pacific population is concerned, we don’t really know, except to say that it must be similar to those in the eastern north Pacific and involve long migrations from warm to colder waters and back again. With the exception of a single gray whale killed in 1999, the Makah people have been prevented from hunting by a series of legal challenges, culminating in a United States federal appeals court decision in December 2002 that required the National Marine Fisheries Service to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement. The size of a whale calf will depend on the size of the mother, but generally speaking you can expect it to be about ¼ the length of the mother. A population of about 200 gray whales stay along the eastern Pacific coast from Canada to California throughout the summer, not making the farther trip to Alaskan waters. Even though South Korea put the most effort into conservation of the species among the Asian nations, there are no confirmed sightings along the Korean Peninsula or even in the Sea of Japan in recent years. Notable features that distinguish the gray whale from other mysticetes include its baleen that is variously described as cream, off-white, or blond in color and is unusually short.  Some recent observations indicate that historic presences of resident whales are possible: a group of two or three were observed feeding in Izu Ōshima in 1994 for almost a month, two single individuals stayed in Ise Bay for almost two months in the 1980s and in 2012, the first confirmed living individuals in Japanese EEZ in the Sea of Japan and the first of living cow-calf pairs since the end of whaling stayed for about three weeks on the coastline of Teradomari in 2014. , In May 2013, a gray whale was sighted off Walvis Bay, Namibia. They are found predominantly in shallow coastal waters of the north Pacific Ocean. Only a few were caught from two whaling stations on the coast of California from 1919 to 1926, and a single station in Washington (1911–21) accounted for the capture of another. A whale song is a long, patterned sequence of sounds. The Blue Whale is the largest land mammal that can be up to 95 ft in length!  Some recent DNA analyses have suggested that certain rorquals of the family Balaenopteridae, such as the humpback whale, Megaptera novaeangliae, and fin whale, Balaenoptera physalus, are more closely related to the gray whale than they are to some other rorquals, such as the minke whales. , Genetic analysis of fossil and prefossil gray whale remains in the Atlantic Ocean suggests several waves of dispersal from the Pacific to the Atlantic related to successive periods of climactic warming - during the Pleistocene before the last glacial period and the early Holocene immediately following the opening of the Bering Strait.  It has been speculated that this whale crossed from the Pacific to the Atlantic via the Northwest Passage, since an alternative route around Cape Horn would not be contiguous to the whale's established territory.  That study suggested that over the past 100,000 years there have been several migrations of gray whales between the Pacific and Atlantic, with the most recent large scale migration of this sort occurring about 5000 years ago.  The common name of the whale comes from its coloration. Brownell Jr., R. L. and Swartz, S. L. 2006. , As of 2001, the Californian gray whale population had grown to about 26,000. Individual whales are typically identified using photographs of their dorsal surface and matching the scars and patches associated with parasites that have fallen off the whale or are still attached. The cause of death in some specimens appears to be related to poor nutritional condition. Forty percent of a b…  Even a very small number of additional annual female deaths will cause the subpopulation to decline. This unique feeding selection makes gray whales one of the most strongly reliant on coastal waters among baleen whales. Moreover, each year there are about 200 to 400 “resident” gray whales in Oregon.  Skeletal comparisons showed the Pacific species to be identical to the Atlantic remains in the 1930s, and Gray's naming has been generally accepted since. Gray whales, along with other species such as right whales and Baird's beaked whales, were common features off the north eastern coast of Hokkaido near Teshio, Ishikari Bay near Otaru, the Shakotan Peninsula, and islands in the La Pérouse Strait such as Rebun Island and Rishiri Island. Female gray whales are usually larger than males. This was the first of 11 winters from 1855 through 1865 known as the "bonanza period", during which gray whaling along the coast of Baja California reached its peak. By the end of the 19th century it had become commercially unviable to hunt gray whales and during the 20th century numbers recovered as the whales were afforded protection.  There was a possible sighting of a whale within the port of Samcheok in 2015. , Predicted distribution models indicate that overall range in the last glacial period was broader or more southerly distributed, and inhabitations in waters where species presences lack in present situation, such as in southern hemisphere and south Asian waters and northern Indian Ocean were possible due to feasibility of the environment on those days. Females are slightly smaller in size than males. Traveling night and day, the gray whale averages approximately 120 km (75 mi) per day at an average speed of 8 km/h (5 mph). You can join our team and help us save whales and dolphins. Retrieved from, Mark Carwardine, 2019,  The round-trip journey of one gray whale has set a new record for the longest mammal migration, covering a distance of more than 22,000 kilometres across the Pacific Ocean. From 1961 to 1972, the Soviet Union caught 138 gray whales (they originally reported not having taken any). This part of the journey is a dangerous time for gray whales as orcas lie in wait, ready to attack and feast on their nutritious young calves. Kasuya, T. (2002). The Russian IWC delegation has said that the hunt is justified under the aboriginal/subsistence exemption, since the fur farms provide a necessary economic base for the region's native population. Most Seattle residents will consider it lucky to spot a single whale while in … Although the Soviet government denied these charges as recently as 1987, in recent years the Russian government has acknowledged the practice. (2001). The Marine Mammal Center.  Differences were also observed between Korean and Chinese specimens. How do whales give birth? The much smaller western subpopulation summers in the Okhotsk Sea. Reeves, R.R., Brownell Jr., R.L., Burdin, A., Cooke, J.G., Darling, J.D., Donovan, G.P., Gulland, F.M.D., Moore, S.E., Nowacek, D.P., Ragen, T.J., Steiner, R.G., Van Blaricom, G.R., Vedenev, A. and Yablokov, A.V. North Atlantic populations were extirpated (perhaps by whaling) on the European coast before AD 500, and on the American coast around the late 17th to early 18th centuries.  Factors limiting or threatening current population levels include ship strikes, entanglement in fishing gear, and changes in sea-ice coverage associated with climate change. As of July 2013, the Namibian whale was still being seen regularly. Between 2013 and 2018, the native people of Chukotka were allowed a total catch of 744 whales (with a maximum of 140 in any one year). They will separate the calf from the mother and hold the calf under water to drown it. The gray whale is distributed in an eastern North Pacific (North American), and an endangered western North Pacific (Asian), population.  Reviewing on other cases on different locations among Japanese coasts and islands observed during 2015 indicate that spatial or seasonal residencies regardless of being temporal or permanental staying once occurred throughout many parts of Japan or on other coastal Asia.  Radiocarbon dating of subfossil or fossil European (Belgium, the Netherlands, Sweden, the United Kingdom) coastal remains confirms this, with whaling the possible cause. Paper SC/58/O14 presented to the IWC Scientific Committee, June 2006, Zhu, Q. Unlike any other large whale! SPEED Gray whales normally swim 2-6 mph (3.2-9.8 kph), but can go up to 10-11 mph (16-17.5 kph) in bursts when in danger. The most common whale off the Oregon coast is the gray whale. These areas are at the southwestern end of the known range.  Meats for sale were also discovered in Japanese markets as well. Others, such as the gray whale and humpback whale, migrate to cool Arctic waters during the summer in search of food sources and to give birth. , In December 1857, Charles Scammon, in the brig Boston, along with his schooner-tender Marin, entered Laguna Ojo de Liebre (Jack-Rabbit Spring Lagoon) or later known as Scammon's Lagoon (by 1860) and found one of the gray's last refuges.  A 2015 study of DNA from subfossil gray whales indicated that this may not be a historically unique event.  Killer whales will often arrive in Monterey Bay to intercept gray whales during their northbound migration, targeting females migrating with newborn calves.  In his 1835 history of Nantucket Island, Obed Macy wrote that in the early pre-1672 colony a whale of the kind called "scragg" entered the harbor and was pursued and killed by the settlers. Grey whales inhabit shallow coastal waters of the North Pacific where they occur in two distinct populations – the western grey whale population inhabiting the coasts of China, Korea, Japan, and Russia; and the eastern grey whale population inhabiting Canada and the United States. This population's migration route is not well known.  Recent findings from either stranded or entangled specimens indicate that the original western population have become functionally extinct and possibly all the whales appeared on Japanese and Chinese coasts in modern times are vagrants or re-colonizers from the eastern population. NOAA Is Investigating 70 Gray Whale Deaths Along the West Coast. Retrieved from, Solar Storms Might Be Causing Gray Whales to Get Lost. Oliver, J. S., Slattery, P. N., Silberstein , M. A., & O'Connor, E. F. (1981). A gray whale reported in 2015 broke all marine mammal migration records - she traveled from Russia to Mexico and back again. The first captive gray whale, who was captured in Scammon's Lagoon, Baja California in 1965, was named Gigi and died two months later from an infection. The Western Pacific Grays are seriously endangered (130 animals left with only 20 breeding females) and recently set upon by oil and gas operations in Sakhalin, Russia where they feed in the summer. The best chance of seeing gray whales is in March through May when the migration peaks. These first whales to arrive are usually pregnant mothers looking for the protection of the lagoons to bear their calves, along with single females seeking mates. There are also occasional sightings off the eastern coast of Kamchatka (Russian Federation) and in other coastal waters of the northern Okhotsk Sea. They have two blowholes on top of their head, which can create a distinctive heart-shaped blow at the surface in calm wind conditions.  However, as of 2018, evidence has indicated that the western population is markedly increasing in number, especially off Sakhalin Island. Limited hunting of gray whales has continued since that time, however, primarily in the Chukotka region of northeastern Russia, where large numbers of gray whales spend the summer months. In winter, their habitat is shifting in the north, mostly attracted by the latitudes of Madagascar, Peru and Australia.  In May and June 2013, a gray whale was sighted off the coast of Namibia – the first confirmed in the Southern Hemisphere. Some scientists suggest that the lack of sea ice has been preventing the fertilization of amphipods, a main source of food for gray whales, so that they have been hunting krill instead, which is far less nutritious. , Along Japanese coasts, four females including a cow-calf pair were trapped and killed in nets in the 2000s. Possibly the first confirmed record of living animals in Japanese waters in the Sea of Japan since the end of whaling occurred on 3 April 2014 at Nodumi Beach. Feeding speeds are slower, about 1-2.5 mph (1.6-4 kph). Gray whales measure from 4.9 m (16 ft) in length for newborns to 13–15 m (43–49 ft) for adults (females tend to be slightly larger than adult males). A mature gray whale can reach 40 t (44 short tons), with a typical range of 15–33 t (17–36 short tons), making them the ninth largest sized species of cetacean.. , Many other names have been ascribed to the gray whale, including desert whale, devilfish, gray back, mussel digger and rip sack. Gray whales undertake one of the world's longest migrations, making a yearly round trip of 15,000-20,000 km. Activities related to oil and gas exploration, including geophysical seismic surveying, pipelaying and drilling operations, increased vessel traffic, and oil spills, all pose potential threats to western gray whales. The most notable of these observations are listed below: Humans and killer whales (orcas) are the adult gray whale's only predators, although orcas are the more prominent predator. Retrieved February 21, 2020, from, CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (. The last confirmed record in Korean waters was the sighting of a pair off Bangeojin, Ulsan in 1977. Newborns are a darker gray to black in color. If they can successfully run the gauntlet, it’s back to finding as much food as possible and avoiding the hunters' harpoons. From 1891 to 1966, an estimated 1,800–2,000 gray whales were caught, with peak catches of between 100 and 200 annually occurring in the 1910s. Throughout February and March, the first to leave the lagoons are males and females without new calves. Nefedova T., Gavrilo M., Gorshkov S. (2013). For the entire west coast of North America for the years 1919 to 1929, 234 gray whales were caught. (1998).  The common name of the whale comes from the gray patches and white mottling on its dark skin. Whale watching in Baja’s lagoons is particularly popular because the whales often come close enough to boats for tourists to pet them..  Prior to this, the last was of catches of 5 animals off Ulsan in 1966. Former feeding areas were once spread over large portions on mid-Honshu to northern Hokkaido, and at least whales were recorded for majority of annual seasons including wintering periods at least along east coasts of Korean Peninsula and Yamaguchi Prefecture. Its head's ventral surface lacks the numerous prominent furrows of the related rorquals, instead bearing two to five shallow furrows on the throat's underside. "Strandings and sightings of the western Pacific stock of the gray whale, Brownell, R.L., Donovan, G.P., Kato, H., Larsen, F., Mattila, D., Reeves, R.R., Rock, Y., Vladimirov, V., Weller, D. & Zhu, Q. This single ovulation event is believed to coincide with the species’ annual migration patterns, when births can occur in warmer waters. Gray whales used to be called ‘devil-fish’ for allegedly attacking the boats of those hunting them, which may have been partly due to defence of their young. The only other significant catch was made in two seasons by the steam-schooner California off Malibu, California. (n.d.). Your gifts help us take action for whales and dolphins. akishimaensis). Together, we can: Adopt a whale and help us protect these amazing creatures. Weight: 16 to 45 tons. Gray whales are baleen whales found in the North Pacific. More ships followed in the two following winters, after which gray whaling in the bay was nearly abandoned because "of the inferior quality and low price of the dark-colored gray whale oil, the low quality and quantity of whalebone from the gray, and the dangers of lagoon whaling. Gray whales are the most coastal of the large whales, rarely venturing more than 20 – 30kms offshore. After 14 months, she was released because she also grew too large to be cared for in the existing facilities.  There are shallow, muddy areas favorable for feeding whales off Shiretoko, such as at Shibetsu, the Notsuke Peninsula, Cape Ochiishi on Nemuro Peninsula, Mutsu Bay, along the Tottori Sand Dunes, in the Suou-nada Sea, and Ōmura Bay.  During the breeding season, it is common for females to have several mates. Humpback whales have been observed defending gray whale calves from orcas.  Similarly, radiocarbon dating of American east coastal subfossil remains confirm that gray whales existed there at least through the 17th century. The western gray whale population is considered to be endangered according to IUCN standards.  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