Friday, November 17, 2006

Gray Whales Missing From Northwest Coastal Region

Up to 17,000 gray whales are missing from the Northwest Coastal region and scientists are concerned. For the last two years, the whales haven't turned up at their traditional feeding grounds.

"We've just come off a second summer in Canada in which we've had next to no whales show up," said William Megill of Bath University in the United Kingdom. "Not only in our little area, but apparently throughout the traditional feeding areas from Washington on up north. We have no idea where the whales all went this year."

Each summer, gray whales feed in the waters from northern California to the Bering and Chuckchi Seas along the Northwest Coastal region because these areas are rich in plankton. But lately these regions haven't seemed to provide enough food for the whales. Megill said the Bering Sea area has "taken a beating" over the last 10 years, forcing the whales into new habitat. But researchers haven't yet found where these new feeding grounds might be.

"This suggests they may be quite lean this winter, particularly as this is now the second summer they've had to deal with this problem, " Megill said.

Generally, the whales rarely feed in their winter breeding grounds, but researchers observed them trying to feed from the lagoon bottoms last winter. "How much they were getting out of the mud they were sifting, I don't know," Megill said. "But there was a lot of it going on, more than I'm used to seeing. We're expecting to see the animals feeding even more in Mexican waters this year." The gray whales face an uncertain future.

To see a video of the whale research in Baja, California, check out

Also, especially for whale lovers, see Northwest Coastal Art Whale Carvings as well as Inuit Art Arctic Whale Sculptures at Free Spirit Gallery.

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