2010 Season Summary
from Observation Post #6
Los Angeles, California, USA

Journey North thanks Alisa Schulman-Janiger, Director,
ACS/LA Gray Whale Census and Behavior Project

A Record Low Count
The spring 2010 migration brought a record low count of gray whales reports Alisa Schulman-Janiger. Here are her results:

Number of whales counted:

  • Northbound total: 521 (677 last season)
  • Northbound total previous range: 634 – 3,412
  • Northbound calves: 41 (or 7.9% of the northbound migrants) were seen beginning March 16 to May 11.

Comparisons to other years:

  • Last season we counted 52 northbound cow/calf pairs which was 7.7% of northbound migrants.
  • Spring 1996-1997 brought the record calf count season: 222 calves, or 13.8% of northbound migrants.
  • Previous calf counts have ranged from 11-196 (0.9%-18.5% of northbound migrants)

Some reasons gray whale counts fluctuate each year:

  1. Variable feeding ground conditions (especially ice coverage) affect migratory timing and corridors;
  2. Weather conditions (more fog this season affected the counts);
  3. Changes in route preferences of whales (at ACS/LA, most southbound gray whales prefer offshore corridors; many northbounders shift to nearshore routes);
  4. Fluctuations in numbers in the wild populations as well as number of whales that complete the migration.

2010 northward migration peaks and turn-around dates:

  • Official turn-around date: February 20
    The turn-around date is the first day when the number of daily northbound whales exceed southbound whales.

Unusual events:

  • Southbound and northbound migrations overlapped: We spotted 49 northbound whales during the “southbound migration.”
  • We spotted 29 southbound whales during the “northbound migration.”
  • The northbound migration started somewhat early. It rose to a very low plateau rather than a typical distinctive peak.
  • “Peak” days and peak week set new record lows:
    • Peak northbound count: 20 gray whales on 4 March and 15 March. (Previous peak count range was 29-152.)
    • Peak week: Only 81 gray whales were counted during the peak northbound week of 13–19 March. (Last season, 158 gray whales were counted.)

The Gray Whale Population Status

NMFS (National Marine Fisheries Service) estimated the gray whale population at 20,110 in 2007. Gray whales were removed from the endangered species list in 1984.

Los Angeles, California
(33.44N, -118.24W)


Gray whale migration data: graph 2010-2011 season
A Record Low Count
How does this season compare to other years?

Citizen scientists watch for whales at Point Vicente Interpretive Center

Photo Alisa Schulman-Janiger

ACS/LA Census-takers on the patio of the Point Vicente Interpretive Center. Point Vicente is in the background. Pictured (left to right) are: Natalie Massey, Linda Jebo, and Alisa Schulman-Janiger.

Members of the public are also invited to join in and help spot whales at the Point Vicente Interpretive Center. Call (310) 377-5370 for directions.