Gray whale baby boom is noted in Alaska and California
Source: Mike Dunham, Anchorage Daily News
A gray whale baby boom appears to be under way along Alaska's Arctic coast. Scientists tracking marine mammals in the Chukchi Sea report an unprecedented number of sightings of gray whale calves in July.
The biggest number previously counted was 18, reported in 1982 and 2011. Those tallies were for the full season, which runs from late June/early July until October. But 57 cow-calf pairs were recorded between July 1 and July 26 this year, according to the federal Alaska Fisheries Science Center.
"There's the potential that some of those are repeat sightings," said Megan Ferguson, project coordinator for the Aerial Surveys of Arctic Marine Mammals Project in a phone interview from Barrow. "But the fact that we're seeing a five-fold increase makes me think that it is a real increase."
Wayne Perryman, a researcher with the federal Southwestern Fisheries Science Center in La Jolla, Calif, said California numbers for young gray whales are also high.
"This was a big calf count year," he wrote in an email, "(with an) estimate of about 1,000 calves, so there should be a lot of them everywhere."
The grays make seasonal trips from the Chukchi Sea to Mexico. Their well-documented travels make them a popular attraction for whale spotters who hit tour boats from Baja to Alaska when migrations take place.
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