Every fall Gray whales migrate from their summer feeding grounds in the Arctic to their breeding and calving grounds in lagoons off Baja, California, in Mexico. Every spring, they turn around and make the reverse trip. And every year, NOAA Fisheries scientists stand on the beach in California and count the number of newborn calves heading north. This year's Gray Whale Calf Survey just wrapped up, and according to Wayne Perryman, a biologist with NOAA's Southwest Fisheries Science Center in La Jolla, CA, it looks like this was a banner year for calf production.
“This year we counted 431 calves,” said Perryman. “That’s a really big number.”
The Eastern Pacific population of gray whales was reduced to a few thousand during the whaling days, but unlike many populations of whales, this one has recovered. They were removed from the endangered species list in 1994, and today they’re holding steady at about 20,000.
Unfortunately, the other population of gray whales, on the Asian side of the Pacific, is not doing nearly so well.
More on the calf survey, from NOAA’s Southwest Fisheries Science Center.