Gray Whale Migration Update: March 24, 1999
Today's Report Includes:
Latest News From the Gray Whale Observation
whales are now being reported near both ends of the migration trail, from California
to Alaska! In Los Angeles, observers have reported record northbound counts in the
last two weeks, and cow/calf counts are higher than usual too. However, the peak
actually appears to be off Newport, Oregon, and many whales continue to be seen off
Westport, Washington. Further north, gray whales are moving past Vancouver Island
and now the first gray whales have been sighted in Seward Alaska!
The highlights of Susan's report are provided below, and you can link to additional
As of Monday, March 22, 867 northbound gray whales have been counted by the American
Cetacean Society (ACS) census from Point Vicente on the Palos Verdes Peninsula near
Los Angeles (33.44 N,-118.24 W). Alisa Schulman-Janiger, the coordinator for the
ACS census is seeing the highest numbers of the census in the last two weeks. And,
this year's northbound whale counts(867) on this date are above average compared
to the last ten years' counts (750), but lower than the 15 year average. The last
southbound count was on March 9.
Baby Brigade Begins!
The first northbound cow/calf pairs were spotted in Los Angeles on March 11!
(33.44 N,-118.24 W). Since then eight cow/calf pairs had been counted by March 22.
This count is higher than usual; for the seven years before 1997, 0 were reported
and in 1997 four cow/calf pairs had been sighted.
Slightly north, in the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary near Santa Barbara
(34.22N,-119.49) several small courting/mating pods of gray whales were sighted between
March 13-17 by Whale Corp from aboard the M/V Condor. And Virg's Landing of Morro
Bay (35.19N,-120.54W) has reported fewer whales than the week before. It appears
his counts have dropped off dramatically, which may mean the peak has passed there.
Similarly, Nancy Black of Monterey Bay Whale Watch also reports that by last week
the peak of their migration had past. Around March 17, they were seeing about 15
per three hour trip and have not seen any cow/calf pairs yet (36.67N, -122.00W).
Golden Gate Whales
Two juvenile whales were spotted in San Francisco Bay last week according to an article
in the San Francisco Chronicle! Thanks to Mr. Haynie's 4th grade class at Mira Vista
School, in Richmond, CA who also reported seeing a Gray whale in the Bay: "We
spotted a gray whale inside Richardson Bay (off San Francisco Bay) by day marker
#4 at about 1500. It was heading north at a pretty fast speed then suddenly stopped.
It flopped its tail vigorously and turned itself south then proceeded out in to San
Francisco Bay at the same speed. It had lots of barnacles and was at least twenty
five feet in length. We assumed the brown on it's skin was mud from Richardson Bay."
Further north in Newport, Oregon, (44.64 N,-124.00W) Christina Folger from Marine
Discovery Tours thinks they are in the peak of their northbound migration. They have
been seeing 2-8 whales heading northbound in their two hour trips. And in Westport,
Washington, (46.50 N,-124.50 W), Geoff Grillo of Advantage Sport Fishing is still
reporting many whales. The whales are definitely heading north this week and he estimates
10 northbound whales per hour.
On Vancouver Island in Tofino, Jamie Bray of Jamie's Whaling Station, reports more
bad weather, but they are seeing 6-8 an hour (49.083 N, -125.92 W). Brian Congdon
of Subtidal Adventures in Ucluelet, British Columbia (48.95 N,-125.42 W) is seeing
a few whales, but the weather is still rough and he expects to see more whales here
as there is a good show of herring.
Alaska At Last!
The first gray whales have now been seen in Seward, Alaska by Mike Brittain captain
of the M/V Renown. (59.85 N,-149.39 W). Fantastic! Before Sunday, Mike had not been
out for a week due to storms at sea.
Susan Payne with son Will Ross H. Dumm
Here in Kodiak, we have not had any reports of Gray whales yet! Whale Fest Kodiak
1999, April 16-25, is fast approaching and will include a lecture and slide show
by the Kodiak Middle School class that recently went on a Baja '99 Adventure. I look
forward to our next report; there should be whales in Kodiak by then and maybe other
signs of spring too!
How Many Gray Whales Are There?
In the meantime, I wanted to share some of the most recent gray whale research with
you.A status review of the eastern Pacific stock of gray whales, Eschrichtius robustus,
was conducted at a workshop on March 16-17 in Seattle, Washington. There were 28
whale researchers at the workshop. The National Marine Fisheries Service/National
Marine Mammal Laboratory estimate that there are 26,635 gray whales in the population.
Research conducted in the last five years, following the removal of the gray whale
from the Endangered Species List in June 1994, was reviewed. The group recommended
keeping the present de-listed status because of the present stock abundance, despite
potential jeopardy to their habitat posed by their proximity to populated coastlines.
Challenge Question #4
"What does Eschrictius robustus mean in latin?"
(To respond to this Challenge Question, please follow the instructions at the
end of this report.)
National Marine Fisheries Service
Alaska Fisheries Science Center
Discussion of Challenge Question #3
In our last report, we asked "What is "benthic"?
Benthic means: relating to, or occurring on the bottom, underlying a body of water.
Benthos refers to those animals and plants living on the bottom of the sea, lake
or river (crawling or burrowing there, or attached as with sea weeds and sessile
animals), from high water mark down to deepest levels. Organisms feeding primarily
upon the benthos are termed benthophagous(Abercrombie et al. 1990).
Many classrooms spent some research time and got "down" to the "bottom"
of the matter! Here's what some of you discovered:
Vermont students wrote that "We looked the word bethnic up in the dictionary.
We found that it said that it was the bottom of a body of water. Then we went to
the internet and found a site about Gray
Whales. That site told us more about how gray whales feed. They go down on the
bottom of the water and they scoop up the food and the mud on the bottom.People can
see dents in the ocean floor where a grey whale has been eating." Linda Thurber's
Third graders, Ardenia and Eliza.(email@example.com)
Becky in Alaska said that "I think the answer to challenge question #3 is benthic
relates to plants and animals on the ocean floor" Sara Hepner's Sterling El.
3rd grade (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Islein Middle School students found that "The dictionary defines benthic as
relating to or occurring at the bottom of a body of water. Therefore, the whales
eat krill, invertebrates, and fish that live in warm shallow waters at the bottom
of the ocean. They stay in shallow waters because they are mammals and need to come
up to the surface to breathe." Umang Swali,Durell Hudson,and Group 2.(email@example.com)
Mrs.Sgalippi's 4th grade class wrote "Dear Journey North, Benthic means bottom
dwelling. This means that the Gray Whale gets his food and swims down near the bottom
of the ocean."Thanks, Simmons Elementary Horsham, PA (JRotay@Hatboro-Horsham.org)
Finally, from Ontario, Scott Young Public School students said "We were on the
computer looking for what benthic was, at first, we thought it was a kind of invertebrate,
but then we finally found that benthic is the bottom of the ocean floor." Stephanie
Clarke, Kate Knot & Danielle Gordon. gr. 5 (Kevin.Adams-SYPS@fc.vcbe.edu.on.ca)
Report your FIRST Gray Whale Sighting to Journey
FIRSTnorthbound Gray Whale you see this spring to Journey North!
If you live along the Gray Whale migration route on the West Coast, we hope you'll
help provide gray whale migration data this spring. To track the whales' trip to
their northern feeding grounds we are collecting the following information:
- Date of first sighting of northbound gray whales.
- Date of first sighting of northbound gray whale mother/calf pairs.
Helpful Links and Special Thanks!
Today's data and observations were generously shared by the many people named in
Susan's Field Notes, and by the following organizations:
How to Respond to Today's Gray Whale Challenge
1. Address an e-mail message to: firstname.lastname@example.org
2. In the Subject Line of your message write: Challenge
Question # 4
3. In the body of the message, give your answer to the question above.
The Next Gray Whale Migration Update will Be Posted on April 7,
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