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Gray Whales are go

One of the longest migrations of any mammal has begun. On 14th February, our reporter in California, Michael H Smith, told us that he had seen the first Gray Whales heading north on their 12,000 - 20,000 km migration. Then earlier today he filed this audio report with further details of their mammalian odyssey.

Gray Whale by Michael H Smith

Gray Whales on the Move

Listen to Michael H Smith speaking about the first northbound Gray Whales

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Report information

Michael H Smith is the Project Coordinator of Gray Whales Count, a non-profit research/education project based in California studying the migration of the Gray Whale. The northward migration of the Gray Whale is one of the easiest to see and follow because they hug the coast of Mexico, the US, and Canada to northern Alaska. This journey of some 12,000 to 20,000 kilometres is believed to be one of the longest of any mammal.

For the past three weeks Michael H Smith has been waiting for the first whales to leave the warm waters around California for the food-abundant waters of the arctic. A few days ago he told us that the “whale watching season has begun in the Santa Barbara Channel and the target is the northbound migration of Gray Whales". Clearly, the tourists are expecting whales and we are approaching the time of year that the whales usually start to migrate but up to this point, they have not moved.

We then heard this from Michael: “as we all know, not many northbound whales have been seen in the Channel yet, and so the wise Captain Mat listened to his radio and heard boats in the east Channel talking about a sighting. Instead of west towards Coal Oil Point, he steered the Condor to the east, where he found two whales, indeed northbound, but twenty-five miles in a straight line from our position. We know whales don't necessarily travel in a straight line. Even so, we were hoping this pair might arrive before 5 and be counted.”

The Gray Whale migration of 2008 has officially begun but how will the numbers of newborn calves compare with previous years? Is climate change resulting in fewer calves?

Further Reading:

Next Gray Whale report: Michael H Smith describes the Gray Whales' migration route
Michael H Smith's daily Gray Whale Count

User comments

Robyn Prima Zang
I live just yards from the ocean in Shelter Cove, CA. I have seen many grey whales in "The Cove" and seen them in very close and spouting in was so awesome I tripped on the step infront of me injuring my ankle and knee two years ago around Feb. 4th. I am interested in tracking thier migration for 2008 starting now they should be making their way south and will go right by where I live. I have been a nurse for nearly 30 years but am now disabled due to that & seeing the whales (even just their spouts in the distance) brings much joy to my life. I am able to see the whales from my windows if I know when to start watching and also when I HAVE TO take out my small dogs. Any information on nthe gray migration 2008 will be appreciated. Also any links that I can use to check on them. I always carry a camera in my pocket!Thank you for any information you can provide to me via email.Peace,Robyn LOCATION: 40.0234,-124.0714 DATE: Fri, 17 Oct 2008 20:15:27 UTC

Greetings. Patiently waiting for the whales here in Tofino B.C.. They are great for our economy.Thanks for this service. It is awesome.Q.- Has there been an increase in shark predation on whales lately? We have seen the attacks on humans increase. LOCATION: 49.1476,-125.9116 DATE: Mon, 25 Feb 2008 00:55:06 GMT

carol a woodhouse BSc Hons
As a fen person I have long been aware of the decline in eel numbers. I've spent many nights with rod and worm catching one eel at a time to eat - never for profit! and have deep respect for these creatures. Initially I hoped that it was a local problem (ie dykes and drains polluted by agricultural practices?.) I was then concerned about the prevelance of netting and fishing for elvers etc. I was still shocked to learn that numbers have decreased by 90% since 1970. What do "experts" think is the disturbing cause of such decline? It seems likely that with such a vast territory a combination of factors are responsible. Humans again I expect. LOCATION: 52.4225,0.5356 DATE: Sat, 23 Feb 2008 18:12:59 GMT LOCATION: 52.4225,0.5356 DATE: Sat, 23 Feb 2008 18:13:27 GMT WOtM team: we're going to report on the eel migration back to the Sargasso Sea with Cefas later in year. We hope to explore such issues then.

Love to see it but unfortunately my wife likes warmer climates. Had a sparrowhawk out side a couple days ago haring about chasing flocks of birds coming back. Talk about meals on wings LOCATION: 51.6623,-1.3403 DATE: Sat, 23 Feb 2008 00:23:14 UTC

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