ESR - Vol. 18, No. 3 - Feature article

Once thought to be extinct, an endangered western North Pacific gray whale breaches off Sakhalin Island, Russia. Image: David W. Weller

Weller DW, Klimek A, Bradford AL, Calambokidis J, Lang AR, Gisborne B, Burdin AM, Szaniszlo W, Urbán J, Gomez-Gallardo Unzueta A, Swartz S, Brownell RL Jr

 

Movements of gray whales between the western and eastern North Pacific

 

Gray whales Eschrichtius robustus are presently recognized as 2 populations, one in the western North Pacific and the other in the eastern North Pacific. The western population is redlisted by the IUCN as Critically Endangered. In this study, some gray whales photo-identified in the western Pacific were documented to migrate during the winter to areas off the coast of North America (Vancouver, California, Mexico). Although these inter-area matches provide new insights on trans-Pacific movements and population mixing of gray whales, genetic studies have demonstrated significant differentiation between the 2 populations. Further, recent winter observations of gray whales off Japan and China led the authors to conclude that not all gray whales identified in the western North Pacific migrate to a common wintering ground.

 

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