Western Gray Whale
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Eschrichtius robustus
HABITAT: Shallow coastal waters
LIFE HISTORY: Females are usually larger than males and give birth once every two to three years. Collects bottom sediment and feeds by filtering it through fringed mouth plates.
THREATS: Oil development in winter range; underwater noise pollution
RANGE: Coastal waters of Japan, Korea and Russia in summer
CURRENT POPULATION: Less than 100
These 30-ton mammals swim more slowly than other whales and tend to stay closer to shore, which made them sitting ducks for whale hunters in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The entire population hovered on the brink of extinction when the International Whaling Commission banned the hunting of gray whales in 1947.
In the eastern Pacific from Baja Mexico to Alaska, grays rebounded dramatically, reaching a population of about 20,000 whales by the 1990s. The western population, however, failed to recover—less than 100 adult whales remain today. They spend their winters in the Sakhalin Islands, off the coast of Russia, where they may be harmed by an offshore oil development scheme.
NRDC is using the Endangered Species Act in the fight to protect western grays and other whales from underwater noise pollution, which has been linked to whale deaths and strandings.
Help Protect Whales
Photos: Dawn in the Amazon © Minden Pictures; Western Gray Whale © Norbert Wu; big leaf mahogany © Dionicio Cruz, courtesy of Kendra McSweeney; Sea turtles © NOAA/Dept. of Commerce
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