01 February 2007

Death of Critically Endangered Whale

Gray Whale (Eschrichtius robustus)

The IUCN released a report today, of the fourth Western Gray Whale death in two years, due to entanglement in fishing nets. The whale was a young female, and was discovered on 19th January 2007 in Yoshihama Bay, off the Northeasten Coast of Honshu.

The Gray Whale was hunted nearly to extinction in the 19th and early 20th centuries. In 1947, the International Whaling Commission (IWC) placed a ban on killing Gray Whales. Today, two distinct populations exist--the Eastern and Western Pacific Gray Whales. The Eastern population, which migrates between Alaska and Baja Mexico, has rebounded since the IWC ban, and today numbers over 20,000. In recent years, however, mortality has been increasing and the production of offspring has been decreasing, boding ill for this population.

The critically endangered Western Gray Whale, which summers in the Sea of Okhotsk, and winters in the coastal waters of Japan, Korea, and China, never recovered, and today numbers approximately 120 individuals, and only 20-25 reproductive females. This western population faces continued pressure from oil and gas field development off of Sakhalin Island, as well as entrapment in fishing gear and collisions with ships.

Translation of an article from a Japanese Newspaper.
The IUCN's listing.
Donate to the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) to help prevent whale deaths due to military sonar.
Gray Whale images.

For a great read on the Gray Whale, check out Dick Russell's book Eye of the Whale: Epic Passage from Baja to Siberia.

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