Gray whale population off western U.S. continues to decline

Oct 7, 2022, 2:37 PM | Updated: 3:17 pm
FILE - In this May 24, 2019, photo, teachers and students from Northwest Montessori School in Seatt...

FILE - In this May 24, 2019, photo, teachers and students from Northwest Montessori School in Seattle examine the carcass of a gray whale after it washed up on the coast of Washington's Olympic Peninsula, just north of Kalaloch Campground in Olympic National Park. U.S. researchers say the number of gray whales off western North America has continued to fall over the last two years, a decline that resembles previous population swings over the past several decades. According to an assessment by NOAA Fisheries released Friday, Oct. 7, 2022, the most recent count put the population at 16,650 whales -- down 38% from its peak in 2015-16. (AP Photo/Gene Johnson, File)

(AP Photo/Gene Johnson, File)

SEATTLE (AP) — U.S. researchers say the number of gray whales off western North America has continued to fall over the last two years, a decline that resembles previous population swings over the past several decades.

According to an assessment by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries released Friday, the most recent count put the population at 16,650 whales — down 38% from its peak in 2015-16. The whales also produced the fewest calves since scientists began counting the births in 1994.

An increase in the number of whales washing up on West Coast beaches prompted the fisheries agency to declare an “unusual mortality event” in 2019. Researchers are still investigating the die-off, but they say climate change and its effects on sea ice and prey availability and location are likely factors. Many, but not all, of the whales that washed up appeared malnourished.

The population recovered from the days of commercial whaling before a similar population drop of 40% occurred in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Gray whales were removed from the endangered species list in 1994.

The population rebounded before a spike in whales washing up on beaches prompted the declaration of another “unusual mortality event” in 1999 and 2000, when the number of whales fell by a quarter.

Scientists say that although the current population swing so far fits within historical patterns, it’s nevertheless concerning.

“We need to be closely monitoring the population to help understand what may be driving the trend,” said David Weller, director of the Marine Mammal and Turtle Division at the Southwest Fisheries Science Center in San Diego.

Researchers count the whales as they return from their summer feeding grounds in the Arctic to the Baja Peninsula lagoons where they nurse their calves in the winter. Typically, the counts are conducted over a two-year period, but to better monitor the population, NOAA Fisheries is adding a third year to the current survey, counting the whales as they pass the central California coast from late December to mid-February 2023.

The calves are counted as the whales head north to the Artic. There were 217 calves in the count that finished in May, down from 383 the year before.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Protesters sing an anti-government song in front of a barricade of burning tires during a protest a...
Associated Press

US says it will expand, extend temporary status for Haitians

SAN DIEGO (AP) — The Biden administration said Monday that it would expand temporary legal status for Haitians already living in the United States, determining conditions in the Caribbean nation were too dangerous for their forced return. The Homeland Security Department said Haitians who were in the United States Nov. 6 could apply for Temporary […]
21 hours ago
Associated Press

Amnesty International Canada says it was hacked by Beijing

TORONTO (AP) — The Canadian branch of Amnesty International said Monday it was the target of a cyberattack sponsored by China. The human rights organization said it first detected the breach Oct. 5 and hired forensic investigators and cybersecurity experts to investigate. Ketty Nivyabandi, Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada, said the searches in their […]
21 hours ago
FILE - A TV screen shows a file image of North Korea's military exercise during a news program at t...
Associated Press

N. Korea orders new artillery firings over South’s drills

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea’s military says it has ordered frontline units to conduct artillery firings into the sea for the second consecutive day in a tit-for-tat response to South Korean live-fire drills in an inland border region. The statement by the North Korean People’s Army’s General Staff came a day after the […]
21 hours ago
Fans of Brazil cheer their team after the World Cup round of 16 soccer match between Brazil and Sou...
Associated Press

World Cup betting down in Las Vegas but higher than expected

LAS VEGAS (AP) — The World Cup may be the globe’s biggest sporting event, yet in the United States in the fall, it competes with a full sports betting calendar. Las Vegas sportsbook directors weren’t overly optimistic the betting would be higher than the 2018 World Cup, which was played in the more usual summer […]
21 hours ago
FILE -  Kirstie Alley attends the premiere of HBO's "Girls" on Jan. 5, 2015, in New York.  Alley, a...
Associated Press

Kirstie Alley, Emmy-winning ‘Cheers’ star, dies at 71

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Kirstie Alley, a two-time Emmy winner whose roles on the TV megahit “Cheers” and in the “Look Who’s Talking” films made her one of the biggest stars in American comedy in the late 1980s and early 1990s, died Monday. She was 71. Alley died of cancer that was only recently discovered, […]
21 hours ago
FILE - Former President Donald Trump speaks at Mar-a-Lago Friday, Nov. 18, 2022, in Palm Beach, Fla...
Associated Press

What’s at stake as Trump Org. trial deliberations continue

NEW YORK (AP) — It’s one ballot former President Donald Trump would rather not be associated with: the verdict sheet at his company’s criminal tax fraud trial. Deliberations are set to spill into a second day Tuesday as jurors weigh charges that the Trump Organization helped executives dodge personal income taxes on perks such as […]
21 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet can improve everyday life

Quantum Fiber supplies unlimited data with speeds up to 940 mbps, enough to share 4K videos with coworkers 20 times faster than a cable.
...
SCHWARTZ LASER EYE CENTER

Key dates for Arizona sports fans to look forward to this fall

Fall brings new beginnings in different ways for Arizona’s professional sports teams like the Cardinals and Coyotes.
...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Here are 4 signs the HVAC unit needs to be replaced

Pool renovations and kitchen upgrades may seem enticing, but at the forefront of these investments arguably should be what residents use the most. In a state where summertime is sweltering, access to a functioning HVAC unit can be critical.
Gray whale population off western U.S. continues to decline