Endangered Russian Gray Whales Visit Baja Mexico

July 11, 2011

Photo-Identification Studies Confirm Winter Migrations of Critically Endangered Western Pacific Gray Whales from Sakhalin Island, Russia to Laguna San Ignacio, Baja California, Mexico

Researchers attending the 63rd meeting of the International Whaling Commission’s Scientific Committee in Tromsø, Norway (June 2011) presented results from a study that used photo-identification methods to document movements of critically endangered western gray whales identified off Sakhalin Island, Russia, to Laguna San Ignacio, Baja California, Mexico. The Western gray whale numbers only an estimated 130 individuals, and previously they were believed to be isolated from the larger Eastern North Pacific population that migrates along the west coast of North America in winter and spring. 

whale route

David Weller (NOAA, Southwest Fisheries Science Center, La Jolla, California), and Amanda Bradford (NOAA, Pacific Island Science Center, Honolulu, Hawaii) and their colleagues compared the 2006-2010 photo-identification catalogs from Laguna San Ignacio to photographs of 181 individual western gray whales identified between 1994-2009 off northeastern Sakhalin Island, Russia. This initial comparison produced four matches with whales photographed in Laguna San Ignacio. These matches indicate that some individuals considered to be a part of the western gray whale population utilize wintering grounds off the Baja California coast, and now confirm that they have been entering Laguna San Ignacio, one of the major wintering lagoons used by eastern gray whales.

Read the complete story at our website at www.lsiecosystem.org


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