Gray whales are entirely dependent on climatic factors. Their prey, (amphipod macrocephela) needs very cold water to grow and survive. In 1999/2000, almost half the Gray whale population died and starvation appeared to be the major cause.

Amphipods feed on algae dropping from sea ice or carried by ocean currents. When the sea ice is diminished, the food web is disrupted. Whales are forced to feed on smaller
amphipods which do not provide enough energy to complete the
massive migration.

Gray whales have one of the longest migrations of any whale. Females need enough food to sustain the 12,000 mile migration; to give birth and to feed their young.

In their feeding grounds, the Bering and Chukchi Seas, El Nino events combined with global warming have increased the seawater temperature and ensured that sea ice is
disappearing fast.

The extent of ice melt is so dramatic that the current decline exceeds the past records for the lowest ice periods in the 1930s and 40s. In 2005, scientists estimated the idecline in ice amounted to approximately 1.3 million square kilometres; an area roughly
twice the size of Texas. In 2007, an additional 180,000 square kilometres, an area roughly the size of Florida, had disappeared.

A secondary warming effect is caused by the oceans absorption of a great deal of the sun’s energy. As the sun begins to set in autumn, the heat stored in the ocean is released back into the atmosphere which increases air temperatures, thus decreasing sea ice.

2007 is the sixth consecutive year of melting sea ice in the Arctic with scientists predicting a new and steeper rate of decline Gray whales are specialist feeders. With no adequate substitute prey, their future survival is grim.

One of the first casualties of climate change in the Arctic is likely to be the Gray whale. It is vitally important that the habitat of resident whales in Canada, Oregon, Washington and
California be protected to ensure survival of the species.


Image of Gray Whale Calf becoming emaciated

Marine Animal Rescue sent these jpegs to the Coalition.  MAR reported several orphaned gray whales this season. This calf hung around an oil rig for 2 weeks. National Marine and Fisheries Service ordered NO rescue attempts be made.

The workers at the rig kept MAR informed about the baby whale’s condition with daily reports.