Grey whale (Eschrichtius robustus) COSEWIC assessment and status report: chapter 1

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Assessment summary

Assessment Summary – May 2004

Common name:
Grey whale (eastern North Pacific population)

Scientific name:
Eschrichtius Robustus

Status:
Special concern

Reason for designation:
Grey whales migrate each year from their winter calving grounds in Mexico to their summer feeding areas in northern Alaska, Russia and Canada. Most of the population passes along the British Columbia (BC) coastline, and some individuals repeatedly spend the entire summer feeding in BC (about 80). The population increased by 2.5% per year following the cessation of whaling, and peaked, within the range of pre-exploitation estimates, at about 27 000 animals in 1998. The extent of recovery of the summer resident group is unknown. However, over one-third of the population died from 1998 to 2002 (possibly due to a lack of food in Alaska). Birth rates, survival rates and other indicators suggest that the decline has ceased and that the population is stable or increasing since 2002. The whales are susceptible to human activities in their 4 breeding lagoons in Mexico, as well as to entanglement in fishing gear and collisions with boats throughout their range. Underwater noise associated with proposed oil development in BC could alter migration patterns. The small group of summer-resident whales could also be threatened by subsistence whaling in the USA.

Occurrence:
Pacific Ocean, Arctic Ocean

Status history:
Designated Not at Risk in April 1987. Status re-examined and designated as Special Concern in May 2004. Last assessment based on an update status report.

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