La temporada de campo de invierno 2008 en Laguna San Ignacio empezó con el agua muy fría en enero y febrero. El equipo de la investigación de la Universidad Autónoma de Baja California Sur (UABCS) llegó a Laguna San Ignacio la tercera semana en enero y empezó los estudios para documentar el número de ballenas grises en la laguna. En censos realizados en las primeras cuatro semanas se registraron los números más bajos de ballenas grises que se hayan documentado en LSI durante las temporadas de reproducción de las ballenas grises, particularmente madres con crías
The water temperature inside Laguna San Ignacio and immediately offshore during this time hovered around 15 degrees C, suggesting a colder than normal or “La Nina” oceanographic condition along the Baja peninsula. The last two weeks of February the water temperature increased to 18-19 degrees C, and whale surveys within the lagoon documented an increase in the number of whales comparable to those observed in recent years. We surmised at this point that the low whale counts and reports of significant numbers of whales outside of the lagoon were related to the prevailing colder water during the first half of the winter season. We know that the gray whales’ winter distribution along the Baja California coast and in the Gulf of California is influenced by water temperature, with the whales moving further south and into the Gulf of California during cold water years.
The winter field season was completed the first week in April. In May several members of the LSIESP attended the Mexican Marine Mammal Society (SOMEMMA) conference in Ensenada and presented papers and posters on their research. In June Jorge Urban attended the International Whaling Commission’s Scientific Committee meeting in Chile and presented papers on gray whales in Laguna San Ignacio. Analysis of the 2008 winter field work will continue through the 2008 summer.
The 2008 gray whale team was led by Co-PIs, Dr. Jorge Urban R. from the Autonomous University of Baja California Sur (UABCS) in La Paz, Steven Swartz of Cetacean Research Associates, Maryland USA, and included four UABCS graduate students (Alejandro Gómez-Gallardo U., Sergio González C., Benjamín Troyo V., and Mauricio Nájera C.) and two volunteers (Anaid López U. of UABCS and Angie Sremba of Oregon State University). The team arrived at Laguna San Ignacio the third week in January, and completed 14 surveys of the number of gray whales in the lagoon by the end of the 2008 winter season in early April. This completes a 30-year series of census surveys that began in 1978, the longest such series for any of the gray whale breeding lagoons in Baja California. Surveys during the first four weeks of 2008 documented the lowest numbers of gray whales, particularly mothers with calves, ever recorded in Laguna San Ignacio during the whales’ winter breeding season. Gray whale photographic identification studies documented the presence of individual whales, particularly females with calves, within the lagoon’s interior.