2012 apparently was an exceptional year for gray whale calves, according to scientists in California and Alaska.
Wayne Perryman, lead researcher with the Cetacean Health and Life History Program at the federal Southwestern Fisheries Science Center in La Jolla, Calif., said in an email to The Cambrian Aug. 7 that “the calf estimate for this season is still rough, but it will come out very close to 1,150 calves. That makes it the fifth highest” annual count in the 19 years in which Perryman’s team has been counting whale cow-calf pairs swimming past Point Piedras Blancas, near the lighthouse 15 miles north of Cambria.
The count is up in Alaska, which is the destination for the mom-and-baby sets when they migrate past San Luis Obispo County each spring.
Scientists have recorded 57 cow-calf pairs between July 1 and July 26 this year, according to the federal Alaska Fisheries Science Center. The previous high was 18.
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Megan Ferguson, of the Aerial Surveys of Arctic Marine Mammals Project, told the Anchorage Daily News: “The fact that we’re seeing a five-fold increase makes me think that it is a real increase.”
The grays migrate from Mexico to Alaska and back each year, mating and birthing at what Perryman teasingly refers to as “Whale Club Med” in the warm waters of Baja.
Pacific grays are no longer classified as an endangered species.