A mother and her calf swimming along together. (Laguna San Ignacio Ecosystem Science Program)
Counting whales is a science in a Baja California Sur whale sanctuary, where almost 300 gray whale calves were born during the 2021–2022 birthing and mating season, according to the National Commission for Natural Protected Areas (Conanp).
Rangers conduct nine censuses in the El Vizcaíno Whale Sanctuary every season, counting the mammals as they observe them breaching and expelling air through their blowholes.
Conanp’s highest estimate of the number of gray whales in the sanctuary this season was that made in February when its rangers counted 948, including 290 females and an equal number of calves.
Other whales migrated more than 9,000 kilometers from the Bering Sea near Alaska and Russia to mate in the sanctuary, part of the UNESCO-protected El Vizcaíno Biosphere Reserve, which is located off the western coast of northern Baja California Sur.
Everardo Mariano Melendez, director of the reserve, described the gray whales that arrive every year as “Mexican whales.”
“They’re born in Mexico and they reproduce in Mexico,” he told a Milenio newspaper journalist who recently accompanied rangers as they conducted a census.
After spending a few months off the coast of the Baja peninsula, they return to northern feeding grounds, Melendez said.
Noé López Paz, a biologist and Conanp ranger, said the whales begin their return migration after the new mothers teach their offspring an essential life skill.
“The censuses and monitoring trips show that mom interacts with her calf and shows it how to breathe for two or three months, and then they migrate north,” he said.
López told Milenio that climate change is one of the greatest threats to gray whales. Fifteen whales, including calves, were found dead by rangers this year. CNN said in a recent report that many thousands of Pacific gray whales have likely died in recent years.
Read the rest at Mexico News Daily
Related: Scientists Identify a New Whale Species in the Gulf of Mexico (Steve Mashuda - EarthJustice)
Related: Mysterious Finding of 30 Dead Dolphins on a Beach in Baja California Sur (Vallarta Daily News)
Related: EPA Proposes Protections for World’s Biggest Sockeye Salmon Fishery (Washington Post)
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