News Room

Grey whale’s record migration may reveal bad news

Apr 16. 15

By CBC News

A female grey whale from Russia crossed the Pacific, swam to Mexico and back in the longest migration ever recorded for a mammal.

The journey reveals some disconcerting news about a species thought to be critically endangered.

Prior to the new study by U.S. and Russian scientists, it was estimated there were just 130 Western North Pacific grey whales left in the world. The whales were so rare that scientists thought they had gone extinct until a small population was discovered off the coast of Sakhalin Island in Russia in the 1970s.

But satellite tracking shows that some of those whales might not be Western North Pacific grey whales after all.

Bruce Mate, director of the Marine Mammal Institute at Oregon State University, led the study that tagged three whales near Sakhalin Island. The whales were tracked as they travelled down the west coast of North America to Baja California, Mexico.

One female whale tracked from Russia made a total round trip of 22,511 kilometres — more than four times the distance from Vancouver, B.C., to St. John's, N.L., and the longest migration ever recorded in a mammal.

Mistaken identity?

The area near Mexico where the whales migrated is where the similar eastern grey whale breeds. The eastern grey whale isn't endangered — there are estimated to be about 18,000 of them.

"The ability of the whales to navigate across open water over tremendously long distances is impressive and suggests that some western grey whales might actually be eastern greys," Mate said in a statement.

B.C. Pictures

The researchers also compared photographs of the whales off Sakhalin Island to those of grey whales spotted off the coast of British Columbia and in Baja California and turned up 10 that were spotted on both sides of the Pacific Ocean.

The results were published in the journal Biology Letters this week.

Summary of the paper in Biology Letter

Scientists have previously found genetic differences between the two types of whales, suggesting that at least some "true" Western North Pacific grey whales do exist.

In some sense, that would be bad news.

"If so, then the number of true western grey whales is even smaller than we previously thought," Mate said.

In fact, the researchers wrote in the paper, it is possible that Western North Pacific Grey whales are extinct.

"Overall," the paper concluded, "the tagging and photo ID data indicate that the population identity of whales off SI [Sakhalin Island] needs further evaluation."

Read Original Story in CBC News | Technology & Science

Photo Cred: Joe McKenna via Flickr

Latest News

Biologically diverse BC to benefit from pledge for endangered-species law

Jul 25. 17

As Canada’s “most biologically rich province,” B.C. stands to benefit hugely from a long-awaited provincial government commitment to create a species-at-risk law, a senior official with the David Suzuki Foundation said Tuesday.

Keep Reading...

BC Premier John Horgan delivers mandate duties to cabinet ministers

Jul 24. 17

Environment Minister George Heyman’s mandate letter stated that he has been tasked with enacting an endangered species law and working to defend British Columbia’s interests in the face of the expansion of the Kinder Morgan pipeline.

Keep Reading...

Recent Press Releases

Wilderness Committee launching world premiere of “Toad People” documentary

Nov 30. 16

Wednesday, November 30, 2016 (All day)
VANCOUVER - The Wilderness Committee is excited to launch the world premiere of Toad People, a unique and powerful documentary at SFU Woodward’s at 6:30 p.m. tonight.

Keep Reading...

Govt Documents Reveal Huge Support For South Okanagan National Park

Sep 08. 16

BC government documents obtained by the Wilderness Committee reveal huge public support for a South Okanagan National Park

Keep Reading...

Media By Month