WHERE TO FIND THEM
The migratory journey for the Gray whale (Eschrichtius robustus) begins in the frigid waters of the Beaufort, Chukchi and Bering Seas where they feed. The summer and first few autumn months are spent here, but then the whales embark on a 12000km round trip to Baja, California for shelter and to breed.
The whales stay close to the coast and their behaviour can be watched from December to April.
Small numbers can also be seen in Canada and Oregon, but the main breeding lagoons are in Mexico – Ojo de Liebre, Guerrero Negro, San Ignacio, Scammon’s and the Magdalena Bay complex.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Gray whales don’t have a dorsal fin instead there is a low hump with between 6 and 12 knuckles between the hump and the tail. Their flippers are small and paddle-shaped.
Typical behaviour includes Spy hopping, where the whale pushes itself vertically upwards out of the water until it can see. This action can last between 15 and 30 seconds. Breaching, where the whale leaps almost clear of the water, is also common.
The Gray whale is also known as Devilfish, Mussel-digger and Scrag whale, and they can grow to between 12 and 14 metres and weigh between 15 and 35 tonnes as fully-grown adults.
Its skin is a mottled grey over its entire body and covered with white, yellow or orange patches of harmless barnacles and parasites such as lice. This is most prevalent around the blowhole and on the anterior part of the back.
These whales prefer shallow water, but have been known to dive down 120 metres for food, which includes Benthic amphipods and other bottom-dwelling organisms.
The IUCN Red List of Threatened Animals is a guide produced every two years by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources. The main purpose of the list is to catalogue the species that are regarded as threatened at global level – overall extinction.
While the next list is not available until the end of March 2002, the organisation told deeperblue that figures for whales remain unchanged since 2000.
According to the 2000 Red List, the Gray whale is classified as lower risk, which means it is not currently considered endangered. However, continual conservation of the species is necessary, if this is to remain the case. It is believed there are between 15 and 25,000 gray whales left in the wild.