from Observation Post #3
Ojo de Libre, Baja California, Mexico
News from the 2010 Season
the latest from Keith Jones (Baja Jones Adventures) at the
Summary: For each of the last 3 migrations the whale
census inside Laguna Ojo de Liebre has dropped from the previous
I suspect this is part of a natural rhythm and not anything
catastrophic. In the late 1990s into early 2000 we saw the
census climb from around 1,000 up to 1,500 and it stayed there
until around 2006 when the numbers suddenly jumped to 2,000
whales. Year 2007 was similar, with more than 2,000. Then in
2008 the number was again around 1,800, still a high number.
2009 saw a drop to only around 1,000 and for 2010 the
count was 600 at the peak of the season.
Fishermen and clam diving friends have told me the water inside
Laguna Ojo de Liebre was warmer than usual this year. Possibly
this is related to the El Nino condition that has been present
recently in the Pacific. The divers noted that an unusual and
worrisome number of Chocolate clams have died in the clam beds.
I’ve not read any research or other speculative reports.
My conclusion at this moment is that a natural cycle is in
progress, combined with water that is uncomfortably warm for
the whales. Thus they are migrating, but not coming inside
the lagoons. Or if they are coming inside, they don’t
stay around for weeks or months, thus the lowered counts.
Hola amigos y amigas: We think that the
El Nino condition this year affected the migration I
think that the water was warmer in the lagoons and a number
of whales (who might normally come inside) chose to remain
in the open ocean. Although the census count was down, this
was a very satisfactory year for those who came along with
us. Every group again had
the opportunity to touch, pet (and yes, even kiss) some gray
whale adults and babies.
2010 Gray Whale Census Numbers for
Laguna Ojo de Liebre
Here is the official
census in this lagoon. (Enlarge) How
many adults? How many babies? Read the March 17 entry (scroll
down this page) and then answer: How do these numbers compare
with previous years?
What might explain it?
The migration this season followed
pattern: Whales began to appear in late December and the number
inside the lagoon increased until February 15. Then, between
the time the whale count was completed on February 15 and again
on February 25, the population inside the lagoon began to decline.
This is exactly what is expected. The only difference between
this year and past years at Laguna Ojo de Liebre is that the
whale count was so much lower. I'm waiting to receive the latest
census figures from Laguna Ojo de Liebre, but my recollection
is that their March 1 count showed the whale population down
to around 520 or 550
total whales (down from the February 15 Census).
It was only 3 seasons
past that the count was 2,000 and there were about 750
counted that season at the peak. There was a similar count
for about a three- season stretch. Prior to that three-year
time period, the count for many years ranged from 800 to
population counted inside the lagoons has varied considerably
since I first began my whale watching career in
1995. This was an El Niño year again and much marine
life is affected by this warm-water condition. Fishermen
and diver friends of mine who work the water of Laguna Ojo
de Liebre told me that they had seen many
this year. They think the water temperature
is higher and may have caused the die-off of scallops. My
speculation is that the water temperature inside the lagoon
was so warm that many whales stayed outside.
had time to review the census figures closely for the shore-based
count done by ACS near San Pedro. I did look at the figures
and they don't seem to be down significantly, just
bit. This would seem to support my belief that the whales
just are not coming inside with the same frequency, but
are still around.
I do not count whales or do research because I don't have permits
to do that. Population cycle fluctuations are normal
in the migration and don't necessarily reflect the dangers facing
the Gray Whale population.
a quick report from Laguna Ojo de Liebre where the gray whale
migration is underway again. This year the census inside Laguna
Ojo de Liebre counted the lowest number of whales in
my memory of 16 years visiting here. Only 578 whales
were counted at the peak of the migration this year. Many people,
including the local biologists and scientists wonder what is
on and why the count dropped from a normal 1,500 to just below 600. Of note to
me is that this is an El Niño year again with warmer water in the Pacific
and inside the lagoon. Some fishermen reported to me that they have noticed large
numbers of scallops that seemed to have died because of warm water. I wonder if
the warm water inside the lagoon has kept many gray whales from coming inside
the lagoon and they are instead gathering in the
ocean outside the Bay. This is of course just speculation on my part and is not
backed up by any research.
Jones, age 13, sends photos from her whale watching trip
to the lagoon Feb. 12-16, 2010:
Jones, age 13, writes: My
favorite part of the trip was being able to pet the whales!
Here's a mama and a baby. The photo shows me and a boy
(age 12) on this trip. Below is a mom and a baby.
17: Hola amigos Y amigas: On On February
12 we arrived on a 4-day gray whale trip. My
13-year-old granddaughter Chelsea is among the visitors.
The whale census is very low. The February 8 census counted
573 whales with 183 baby whales. Three years ago
baby whales were counted
and more than 2,000 whales total. There is no apparent reason
for the change,
which actually took place last year when the census dropped to
900 whales at the peak time. More census counts are ahead.
Jones (left) on a whale-watching trip in 2002 at age
standing next to baleen from a gray whale. Now she's
13 and visitng
the whales again.
I'm here to see the whales! One other
other kid is on the trip, and we are having a blast. We
are seeing a lot of baby whales and moms. We saw the adults
spouting. I'll send photos and tell you all about it for
the next Journey North report."
an adult on this trip said, "At first we shouted and
pointed at every whale spout. But soon we stopped because there
so many sightings it quickly became 'normal' to
see a whale swim up from below and blow a spray of water just
feet from our boat." When a huge adult whale swam under
the boat, everyone spent the next hour, "which seemed
like only 5 minutes, taking turns touching, rubbing
this wonderful animal." Click
the video to see what it's like
to be in a whale watching boat in the lagoon!
Ojo de Libre, Baja California, Mex.