The primary predators of grey whales are transient killer whales, which may attack grey whale calves and yearlings along their migration route. Vancouver Aquarium marine mammal scientist Dr. Lance Barrett-Lennard has been studying killer whale predation on grey whales in False Pass, Alaska, through which the majority of grey whales pass on their way to the Bering Sea. The calm, warm waters of the lagoons are a safe place for young whales, free from predators like killer whales. Locals here affectionately call gray whales "friendly ones" as they have an unusual tendency to approach whale-watching boats and check out the occupants.
Once common throughout the Northern Hemisphere, gray whales are now only regularly found in the North Pacific Ocean where there are two extant populations, one in the eastern and one in the western North Pacific.
Commercial whaling rapidly brought both Pacific populations to near extinction. International conservation measures were enacted in the s and s to protect whales from over-exploitation, and in the mids the International Whaling Commission instituted a moratorium on commercial whaling.
Gray whales are known for their curiosity toward boats in some locations and are the focus of whale watching and ecotourism along the west coast of North America.
Gray whales make one of the longest annual migrations of any mammal, traveling about 10, miles round-trip and in some cases upwards of 14, miles. On their migration routes they face threats from vessel strikes, entanglement in fishing gear, and other sources of disturbance. NOAA Fisheries works to conserve gray whales through collaborative management, integrated science, partnerships, and outreach.
Our scientists use a variety of innovative techniques to study, protect, and rescue gray whales in distress what is property rental assistance. We strive to reduce the harmful effects of human activities such as fisheries interactions, noise, how to say in arabic what are you doing pollution, through management actions based on science, public input, and public outreach.
NOAA Fisheries estimates the population size also called a stock for gray whales in its stock assessment reports. Shore-based observers have conducted systematic counts of eastern North Pacific gray whales migrating south along the central California coast in most years since All gray whale stocks are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. The eastern stock or Distinct Population Segment DPS was once listed as endangered what are gray whales predators the Endangered Species Act but successfully recovered and was delisted in The western stock is estimated to include fewer than individuals based on photo-identification data collected off Sakhalin Island and southeastern Kamchatka, Russia.
These large whales can grow to about 49 feet long and weigh approximately 90, pounds. Females are slightly larger than males. Gray whales have a mottled gray body with small eyes located just above the corners of the mouth.
Their pectoral flippers are broad, paddle-shaped, and pointed at the tips. The tail flukes are nearly 10 feet wide with S-shaped trailing edges and a deep median notch. Calves are typically born dark gray and lighten as they age to brownish-gray or light gray.
All gray whales are mottled with lighter patches. They have barnacles and whale lice i. Gray whales are frequently observed traveling alone or in small, mostly unstable groups, although large aggregations may be seen in feeding and breeding grounds.
Like other baleen whales, long-term bonds between individuals are thought to be rare. They are primarily bottom feeders that consume a wide range of benthic sea floor and epibenthic above the sea floor invertebrates, such as amphipods. Gray whales suck sediment and food from the sea floor by rolling on their sides and swimming slowly along, filtering their food through to coarse baleen plates on each side of their upper jaw.
In how to create an html document in word 2007 so, they often leave long trails of mud behind them and "feeding pits" on the seafloor. Killer whales prey upon gray whales. Gray whales are found mainly in shallow coastal waters in the North Pacific Ocean, although during migration they do sometimes cross deep waters far from shore.
Most of the eastern North Pacific stock gray whales spend the summer feeding in the northern Bering and Chukchi seas, but some feed along the Pacific coast during the summer, in waters off of Southeast Alaska, British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, and northern California. In the fall, eastern North Pacific gray whales migrate from their summer feeding grounds, heading south along the coast of North America to spend the winter in their wintering and calving areas off the coast of Baja California, Mexico.
Calves are born during migration or in the shallow lagoons and bays of Mexico from early January to mid-February. From mid-February to May, eastern North Pacific gray whales can be seen migrating what are gray whales predators along the U.
West Coast. Although western and eastern stocks of gray whales were thought to be relatively isolated from each other, recent satellite tagging data and photo-identification and genetic matches have shown that at least some western North Pacific gray whales migrate across the northern Gulf of Alaska, and along the west coast of British Columbia, the United States, and Mexico.
Gray whales become sexually mature between 6 and 12 years, with the average of maturity being about 8 to 9 years old. After 12 to 13 months of gestation, females give birth to a single calf. Newborn calves are approximately 14 to 16 feet long and weigh about 2, pounds. The average and maximum lifespan of gray whales is unknown, although one female was estimated at 75 to 80 years old after death. Gray whales are at high risk of becoming entangled in fishing gear.
Once entangled, whales may drag and swim with attached gear for long distances or be anchored in place and unable to swim. Events such as these result in fatigue, compromised feeding ability, or severe injury, which may ultimately lead to death.
Collisions with all sizes and types of vessels are one of the primary threats to marine mammals, particularly large whales. Gray whales are vulnerable to vessel strikes because they feed and migrate along the U. Gray whales may also be vulnerable to vessel strikes in the inland waters of Washington and in feeding areas along the Pacific coast.
Whale watching has become an important recreational industry in several communities along the North American coast from British Columbia, Canada, to the gray whale wintering lagoons of Baja California, Mexico. Whale watching along this route may lead to disturbance and affect gray whale behavior.
Underwater noise can reduce the ability of whales to communicate with each other, increase their stress levels, interrupt their normal behavior and displace them from areas important to their survival. Habitat modification and degradation, such as that resulting from offshore oil and gas development may affect gray whale foraging habitat off Sakhalin Island, Russia.
Platforms, pipelines, and other types of infrastructure construction activities have the potential of impacting gray whale prey communities. The impacts of climate change on baleen whales are unknown, but it is considered one of the largest threats facing high latitude regions where many gray whales forage.
Most notably, the timing and distribution of sea ice coverage is changing dramatically with altered oceanographic conditions. Any resulting changes in prey distribution could lead to changes in foraging behavior, nutritional stress, and diminished reproduction for gray whales. Additionally, changing water temperature and currents could impact the timing of environmental cues important for navigation and migration.
All gray whales are protected under the MMPA. Our work strives to protect gray whales by:. Our what are gray whales predators projects have helped us better understand gray whales and the challenges they face. Our work includes:. Be responsible when viewing marine life in the wild. Observe all large whales from a safe distance of at least yards and limit your time spent observing to 30 minutes or less. Report a sick, injured, entangled, stranded, or dead animal to make sure professional responders and scientists know about it and can take appropriate action.
Numerous organizations around the country are trained and ready to respond. Never approach or try to save an injured or entangled animal yourself—it can be dangerous to both the animal and you. Collisions with vessels are a major cause of injury and death for whales.
Here are some tips to avoid collisions:. Watch your speed in areas of known marine mammal occurrence. Keep speeds to 10 knots or less to reduce potential for injury. Stop immediately if within yards. Slowly distance your vessel from the whale. This hotline is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for anyone in the United States.
Like all marine mammals, gray whales are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. NOAA Fisheries is working to help conserve this population and to ensure its continued survival and continued recovery. Gray whales are incidentally caught as bycatch and entangled in fishing gear, leading to deaths and serious injuries.
We work with fishermen, industry, non-government organizations, and academia to find approaches and strategies for reducing bycatch in U. Learn more about bycatch and fisheries interactions. Collisions between whales and large vessels often go unnoticed and unreported, even though whales can be injured or killed, and vessels can sustain damage.
We have taken steps to reduce the threat of vessel collisions to gray whales. Coast Guard to effect changes in shipping lanes that should help reduce the risk of how to remove audi symphony radio striking large whales.
NOAA Fisheries has also worked with the Southern California Marine Exchange to coordinate meetings with shipping industry leaders to discuss the issue of large whale vessel strikes. NOAA works with the U. Coast Guard, industry representatives, and the NOAA Weather Service to prevent strikes by alerting mariners of the presence of large whales to raise awareness and help what is second trimester in pregnancy strikes.
We recommend that operators of large vessels do the following to help reduce the risk of ship strikes:. Learn when the seasonal abundance of large whales is in shipping lanes. Listen for and heed advisories. Keep a sharp look-out for whales; post extra crew on the bow to watch, if possible. Reduce speeds while in the advisory zones or in areas of high seasonal or local whale abundance.
Re-route the vessel to avoid areas of high whale abundance. Admiring whales from a distance is the safest and most responsible way to view them in their natural habitat. NOAA Fisheries supports responsible viewing of marine mammals in the wild and has adopted a guideline to observe all large whales from a safe distance of at least yards by sea or land. Learn more about marine life viewing guidelines. We work with volunteer networks in all coastal states to respond to marine mammal strandings.
When stranded animals are found dead, our scientists work to understand and investigate the cause of death. Although the cause often remains unknown, scientists can sometimes identify strandings due to disease, harmful algal blooms, vessel strikes, fishing gear entanglements, pollution exposure, and underwater noise. Some strandings can serve as indicators of ocean health, giving insight into larger environmental issues that may also have implications for human health and welfare.
Under the Marine Mammal Protection Actan unusual mortality event is defined as "a stranding that is unexpected; involves a significant die-off of any marine mammal population; and demands immediate response. Get information on active and past UMEs.
Get an overview of marine mammal UMEs. Noise pollution can threaten whale populations, interrupting their normal behavior and displacing them from areas important to their survival. NOAA Fisheries is investigating all aspects of acoustic communication and hearing in marine animals, as well as the effects of sound on whale behavior and hearing.
The only major predators of gray whales are killer whales and humans. Many gray whales have healed scars and killer whale teeth marks on their flukes and flippers. Early whalers and Eskimos from coastal Alaskan villages have reported many instances of gray whales fleeing into very shallow water and sometimes beaching or stranding themselves while trying to escape pursuing killer whales. Jan 22, · The gray whale’s only predator (other than humans) is the killer whale (Orcinus orca). Killer whales usually target gray whale calves. Hunting in pods, they separate the calves from their mothers. The gray whale will often attempt to evade the predators by swimming into shallow water or kelp beds. Gray whale mothers are known to be fiercely protective of their calves. Jan 26, · Since , gray whales have been decimated by something called an unusual mortality event, or UME.A UME is an unexpected phenomenon during which a significant number of .
As long as yellow school bus and weighing as much as 20 cars, the eastern North Pacific gray whale is a gentle giant often seen breaching just off the California coast.
As of the population consisted of 27, individuals, but around two years ago unusual numbers of whales started dying off, alarming scientists. Since , gray whales have been decimated by something called an unusual mortality event , or UME.
A UME is an unexpected phenomenon during which a significant number of marine mammals die. So far, this UME has resulted in confirmed gray whale deaths, and possibly many more that are unrecorded.
This event continues. Scientists are not exactly sure why the whales are dying, but in a newly released study , published in the journal Marine Ecology Progress Series , researchers conclude it is likely a result of starvation due lack of prey, perhaps caused by warming Arctic waters where they feed. If that's true, the concern is that mass die-offs like this may become more frequent in the future as waters continue to heat up due to human-caused climate change.
The eastern North Pacific gray whale travels over 4, miles a year each way up and down the west coast of North America between feeding grounds in the Bering Sea between Alaska and Russia in summer and breeding grounds along the Baja California Sur in winter. Right now the whales are heading south towards their breeding lagoons like Laguna San Ignacio in Baja. It is still early, but the co-author of the study, Dr. Swartz says the majority of whales will arrive later in February and March in places like Laguna San Ignacio and La Paz , Mexico, where on-site researchers are waiting to evaluate the whales.
That's when they will know if this mortality event continues to get worse. UME's may be rare and unexpected, but they are not unheard of. But the total loss was even greater. Understandably, researchers are concerned that the number of deaths in this current event is undercounted as well, especially given the limited ability to monitor the migration due to COVID.
When the team is able to do their work they use a high-tech method to monitor the whales. CBS News corresponded with the lead author, Dr. Fredrik Christiansen, of Aarhus University in Denmark, and he explained their process. Christiansen says the researchers use what is called drone photogrammetry to measure the body condition of the whales by flying a drone equipped with a high resolution camera about 20 to 30 meters above the whale when they surface to breathe.
When the whales are stretched out, measures can be taken of their length and width. From that, researchers are able to calculate the volume or fatness of the whale. In addition, the team is able to identify individual whales based on unique color patterns on their backs. They can then compare the body condition of each whale from year to year to know if the whales have gained or lost body mass. Their results show that many of these whales are getting skinnier. The image below shows a comparison of whales photographed in , and , showing their diminished body condition.
It's clear the whale in the most recent photo especially is not getting the nutrition it needs. Christiansen says it appears access to food in the Bering Sea is to blame. Swartz says there is some chance that the population of whales has reached a point where competition for food is impacting the whales, but the most obvious explanation is related to rapid changes in the North Pacific.
In recent years the Arctic has been warming at three times the rate of the global average, a phenomenon known as Arctic amplification, and sea ice has reached near record lows during late summer and fall.
This impacts weather patterns, upwelling and something called primary production in the North Pacific Ocean. Primary productivity is a scientific term which is a measure of biological life in the ocean. Seasonally, as the weather warms and nutrients are transported to the surface from down below due to upwelling, parts of the ocean come alive with blooms of plankton.
Like clockwork, these plankton blooms draw predators from near and far. But if these blooms decrease, it threatens the life that depends on them. Most of the investigated regions showed an uptick. Over the longer term , while most Arctic regions, like Greenland, have seen an increase in primary productivity, the Bering Sea has basically flatlined. While climate change is clearly disrupting what used to be considered normal, the researchers did not look into that aspect of the UME and it is not clear if the changes to prey or access to prey is related to climate change or some other factor.
However, researchers like Swartz and Christiansen are concerned that as the climate continues to warm, the challenges will continue to mount for gray whales and other marine mammals. For the population as a whole though, I do fear that the population will decline to the new environmental carrying capacity. Chrome Safari Continue. Be the first to know. Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.