Researchers study Oregon’s “resident population” of gray whales

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Every year, some 20,000 gray whales quit between a tact lagoons of Baja, Mexico, and a copious feeding drift off British Columbia and Alaska, mostly flitting tighten to seaside along a Northwest seashore – formulating a renouned traveller attraction.


For some reason, however, about 200 of these whales annually cut brief their northern migration, opting instead to misbehave along a seashore from northern California to Washington via most of a summer. Although they don’t live year-round off a Northwest coast, they are famous informally as Oregon’s “resident” gray whales.

Scientists don’t know as most as they’d like about a ocean-dwelling neighbors, so a organisation of researchers from Oregon State University, led by master’s tyro Florence outpost Tulder, aims to learn more. She is heading a plan this summer to mark gray whales that like to visit a Oregon coast, lane their movements and behavior, and review them with print repository in an try to brand particular whales.

As partial of a study, a OSU researchers will also guard activities of commercial, licence and recreational fishing boats – as good as whale-watching vessels – to settle if they have an outcome on a whales’ behavior.

“Our idea is not to diminish vessel use in waters nearby whales, though to rise a list of best-practices that we can share with a fishing and whale-watching industries,” pronounced outpost Tulder, who is a tyro in OSU’s Department of Fisheries and Wildlife in OSU’s College of Agricultural Sciences. “We’d like to learn some-more about these whales and improved know how and where they feed along a Oregon coast.”

For a subsequent several weeks, outpost Tulder and her investigate organisation will set adult observation locations during dual renouned waysides – Port Orford and Boiler Bay State Park nearby Depoe Bay. There they will use a surveyor’s instrument called a theodolite to lane and map a transformation of particular whales during a excellent scale as they forage. The information collected will tell them how a whales use opposite areas, how they hunt for food patches, and how they correlate with vessels.

During a team’s initial week during Boiler Bay, they speckled a whale with overlapping spots on a tail that they nicknamed ‘Mitosis.’ The whale did a discerning “drive-by” and left a investigate area, though returned dual days after and foraged for some-more than 3 hours in one tiny area of only a few hundred yards. The following day, Mitosis arrived again and didn’t stay as long, though lonesome a most broader area.

“We consider a reason they’re captivated to these foraging hotspots along a Oregon seashore is an contentment of mysid shrimp,” outpost Tulder said. “During summer months, a mysid can be unequivocally dense, from a seafloor to a surface, and unequivocally tighten to a shore. We wish to know if this resources of foraging is adequate to get them to interrupt their emigration north. Or is there some other resource during work that creates 200 whales act differently than a other 20,000? That’s what we wish to find out.

“There’s also a doubt of how they even locate a shrimp,” she added. “Gray whales don’t use echo-location, so how do these whales hunt for and find unenlightened chase patches? It competence be probable that this believe is upheld along from mom to calf among this race subset.”

Gray whales are one of a few involved class success stories, scientists say. The race of eastern gray whales has recovered from a exploitation of 20th-century whaling to turn robust. Their near-shore emigration has spawned a new attention of whale-watching along a Oregon seashore that in 2009 was value an estimated $29 million – a figure expected aloft today.

Leigh Torres, an OSU whale dilettante with a Marine Mammal Institute who is outpost Tulder’s coach for a project, pronounced a work finished this summer by a tyro investigate organisation will assistance scientists learn some-more about how a whales use their medium – and correlate with humans.

“There is still a lot we don’t know about these whales, so a fine-scale tracking of their feeding behavior, with point marks of vessels, will be really enlightening,” Torres said. “We’d like to know some-more about how gray whale foraging strategies differ between a dual investigate sites or when there is a contingent calf, or mixed whales are around.

“We’re also meddlesome in how a whales act when there are boats in a vicinity,” Torres added. “Are there function differences formed on vessel trade and composition? Whales competence conflict to some boats, though maybe not others formed on speed, approach, engine type, etc. We wish to give behind to a whale and fishing industries what we’ve schooled so they can settle their possess discipline about how tighten to get to whales so they can say a essential business and a whales can continue to implement a habitat.”

The researchers also are meddlesome in either other gray whales competence be fasten a organisation of 200.

“It’s probable that other gray whales historically did what this race subset is doing now, though got divided from it for some reason,” she said. “Or it competence be that some whales are only opportunistic and wish to hang around and food down on a shrimp. With a long-term study, we wish to find out.”

Source: Oregon State University