FINAL Gray Whale Migration Update: May 19, 1999
Today's Report Includes:
Latest News From the Gray Whale Observation Posts
Pushing North Despite an Icy Grip
The northernmost gray whales have now reached Goodnews Bay (58.83N, -161.67W) and Security Cove (58.67N, -161.85W), where 3 gray whales were sighted on May 17. An estimated 1,500 gray whales were also reported between Kulukak Point (58.86N,-159.67W) and the south end of Hagemeister Island (58.63N,-161.00W). But late ice in the Bering Sea still has a grip on their migration.
Principal Just Misses Orca Attack!
False Pass School is seeing a lot of gray whales now, plus there was an Orca attack just off False Pass dock! Read the news below from Principal John Concilius who heard about the attack, and rushed to the scene.
Meanwhile in the south, the ACS census near Los Angeles (33.44N,-118.24W) has finished up with the lowest northbound cow/calf count since the 1990/91 season!
The Highlights of Susan's report are provided below:
The ACS census at Point Vicente on the Palos Verdes Peninsula (33.44N,-118.24W) concluded on May 15. Alisa Schulman-Janiger reports that the total northbound count was 1,363 gray whales, including 34 cow/calf pairs or 2.5 % of the total; the total southbound count was 682 whales, including 15 cow/calf pairs.
Lowest Count In Years
This year's northbound cow/calf pair count is the lowest since the 1990/91 season, and they are still hoping that it is a late migration this year. The highest weekly cow/calf pair count of the year, nine, compares to 50 last year. The monthly break down of cow/calf pairs was also unusual this year: 12 cow/calf pairs in March; 9 in April; and 13 in May. A friend of Alisa's told her that the calf count in San Ignacio is also the lowest in 10 years. For more information, check out the:
I have not received recent news from Wayne Perryman of the Southwest
Fisheries Science Center, who has conducted a cow/calf census from Point Piedras
Blancas (35.67N,-121.28W) in San Luis Obispo County since 1994. However, Nancy Black
from Monterey Bay Whale
Watch reported that Wayne Perryman's group has seen 70 cow/calf pairs so far
this year compared to 300-400 last year.
False Pass Orca Attack!
Buck Laukitis has been traveling in his boat from Kodiak to False Pass in the last two weeks, and he reports seeing no gray whales in Shelikof Strait (58.00N,-154.00W) or at Chignik (56.30N,-158.38W). However, he did report seeing five orcas "mauling" a gray whale right next to the False Pass dock (54.85N,-163.40W) on May 13! Buck and eleven others watched as the orcas were trying to keep the whale down, but they did not see how the struggle ended as the whale group drifted north with the tide. The orcas were all females or immatures on the small side, and they had dull gray patches on their sides making them look almost black.
At False Pass School, Principal John Concilius tried to get some photos of the orca attack that Buck Laukitus reported, but by the time he arrived they had gone. He reports that the gray whale was small, possibly a young whale. With only three days to go, John reports a lot of gray whales in the pass last week, and large numbers the last few days. Maybe now you can see some gray whales from the live weather camera on Isanotski Strait:
Only As Far As the Ice Allows
Up to 1,500 gray whales are being seen between Kulukak Point (58.86N,-159.67W) to the south end of Hagemeister Island (58.63N,-161.00W) , with increased seal and sea lion activity. Water temperatures are coming up, as of Sunday, three to four degrees celsius; shorefast ice was reported last on May 15.
In Bethel, Alaska, Charles Burkey, with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game flies aerial herring surveys and reports that on May 16, he saw no whales, no herring, and only one sea lion between Security Cove (58.67N,-161.85W) on the southeast shore of Kuskokwim Bay, and Goodnews Bay (59.83N,-161.67W). But on the 17th he reported seeing 3 gray whales in this area. Ice coverage there was about thirty percent.
Up in Gambel (63.83N,-146.68W) on St. Lawrence Island, they have not seen any gray whales there yet, and only a few bowhead whales, according to Larry Dickerson, a biologist with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. Larry says the gray whales are there usually in June. There is still a lot of ice there. The walrus hunters are having to haul their 18 foot aluminum skiffs five miles over ice to reach open water.
"Late Breaking" News
In Nome (64.50 N, -165.40 W), Charles Lean of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game reports that they are having a late breakup, and that the ice is still thick. This ice situation in Nome was last seen in 1992, and before that in 1985 and 1975. Charles has heard of open water towards Teller, Alaska on the Seward Peninsula (65.27N,-166.35W), and says that the Russian side of the Bering Sea has more open water.
Attention Turns to Land
Migration Nears an End, But the Issues Don't
As this season's gray whale migration nears an end, here are some of the current newsworthy issues and events that possibly could impact the gray whales along their long migration route. For more information you might want to look on the internet, or keep your ears open for news on these subjects. I will not provide too much detail, but you will likely hear more.
Parting Thoughts and Season Summary From Kodiak
The timing of the "firsts" seemed to be similar to last year except
for their arrival in Togiak which was delayed because of the ice. We have been very
fortunate to have made contacts along the migration route with people dedicated to
observing and understanding the gray whales, and I want to thank them for their repeated
information these months.
Discussion of Challenge Question #7
We had some very good responses for the definition of fecundity including this one:
In the Dictionary of Biology (Abercrombie, M. et al., 1980) the definition is
short: the reproductive output, usually of an individual; number of offspring produced.
In Webster's Third New International Dictionary, the definition includes: the quality
or the power of producing offspring especially in abundance or the quality that conduces
this; the potential reproductive capacity.
Helpful Links and Thanks!
Today's data and observations were generously shared by the many people named in Susan's Field Notes, and by the following organizations:
Please Share Your Thoughts
This is the FINAL Gray Whale Migration Update. Have a Great Summer!
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