Quirks & Quarks

Record Migration Sheds New Light on Gray Whale Populations

Scientists track Gray Whales as they migrate nearly all the way around the Northern Pacific

Gray Whales travel 22,000 kilometres in a record migration

Western Gray Whale (Craig Hayslip, Oregon State University Marine Mammal Institute, cc-by-nc-sa-2.0)
The longest mammal migration ever documented was recently made by a Gray whale. The nine-year-old female Western Gray Whale travelled from a feeding ground off Russia's Sakhalin Island, across the Bering Sea and down the coast of North America to Baja Mexico, then back.

The five- month round-trip was more than 22,000 kilometres. Scientists, including Dr. Bruce Mate, the Director of the Marine Mammal Institute at Oregon State University, were surprised that this whale, and several other Western Gray Whales, migrated across the Pacific to join Eastern Gray Whales - and not south to winter off the coast of China, as they had thought.

This suggests that many Gray whales in the Western population, may, in fact, belong to the much larger Eastern Gray Whale group. 

Related Links

Paper in The Royal Society Biology Letters
- Oregon State University release
CBC News story
National Geographic story