2006 Winter Program Field Report

The 2006 Winter Program Field Report contains the field studies of breeding gray whales in Laguna San Ignacio, Baja California Sur, México, were conducted during February 2006. Participants were Dr. Jorge Urbán Ramírez, M en C. Alejandro Gómez Gallardo, Biol. Mar. Sergio González Carrillo, Biol. Mar. Benjamín Troyo Vega and Biol. Mar. Mauricio Nájera Caballero from Autonomous University of Baja California Sur (UABCS), and Dr. Steven L. Swartz from Maryland, U.S.A.

Objectives

The overall objective of this season’s research was to continue gray whale scientific monitoring in San Ignacio Lagoon to detect and assess trends in the whales’ use of this breeding habitat, to evaluate the status and apparent condition of whales that are observed in the lagoon, and to provide this information as a basis for advice to resource mangers for monitoring and directing ongoing human activities in the San Ignacio lagoon wetlands complex.

Specific objectives included:

  1. Documenting the relative abundance and distribution of gray whales within San Ignacio Lagoon during the period of study;
  2. Estimating the relative number of Cows with calves and single whales in San Ignacio Lagoon during the 2006 winter breeding season;
  3. Initiate a third time series of photographic identification data for ENP gray whales in their breeding lagoons of Baja California Mexico;
  4. Combining photographs from 2005 -2006 with the existing historical gray whale digital photographic database;
  5. Analyzing photographic data for evidence of changes in physiological condition (e.g., physical evidence of skinny, malnourished, scarred, or otherwise stressed individuals) by comparing photographs of known whales from all three time periods (i.e., 1977-1985, 1996-2002, and 2005-2006);
  6. Searching and comparing photographs in the database to identify individuals animals, especially females, that are re-sighted in the breeding lagoons and other areas of the gray whales’ range to determine: (a) frequency of occurrence and movements within and among specific areas and breeding lagoons, (b) calving intervals for known females, (c) estimates of adult and calf survivorship; (d) determine associations between known individuals; and (e) other life history parameters relevant to the health and condition of the ENP gray whale population.
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