Gray Whale Research & Activities Update for Summer 2022


Our gray whale research teams have been busy this spring and summer with many activities following the conclusion of the 2022 winter gray whale research in Laguna San Ignacio (LSI) and Bahía Magdalena (BM). As the fall approaches preparations are underway for the 2023 gray whale research programs in Laguna San Ignacio and in Bahía Magdalena. Below we summarize and provide internet links to information on these activities.

International Whaling Commission’s Scientific Committee Meeting:

Immediately following the winter gray whale research season in Baja California Sur, the International Whaling Commission’s Scientific Committee convened their annual “virtual” meeting from 1-5 May. Our researchers submitted four papers reviewing the findings of our 2022 gray whale research, and they contributed to a fifth paper summarizing the ongoing gray whale Unusual Mortality Event (UME). You may view these reports on our website at the following links:

Gray whale abundance in Laguna San Ignacio and Bahía Magdalena lagoon complex, B.C.S., México for 2022 breeding season: SC/68D/CMP/07.

Gray whale’s body condition in Laguna San Ignacio, BCS, México for winter breeding season 2022: SC/68D/CMP/08.

Gray whale (Eschrichtius robustus) migratory movements between the western North Pacific and the Mexican breeding grounds: 2022 Update: SC/68D/CMP/09.

Gray whale stranding records in Mexico, during the 2022 winter breeding season: SC/68D/CMP/10.

Update on the Eastern North Pacific Gray Whale (Eschrichtius robustus) 2019-2022 Unusual Mortality Event, NOAA UME Working Group. Submitted to the 2022 IWC-Scientific Committee meeting.

24th Biennial Conference on Marine Mammals:

From August 1-5 the Society for Marine Mammalogy held its Biennial Conference on Marine Mammals in Palm Beach, Florida. LSIESP researchers presented four posters at this meeting highlighting key research activities for assessing the impact to gray whales in Baja California of the ongoing UME. Click on the links below to view each poster presentation:

Reduction in the number of gray whale calves (Eschrichtius robustus) in Bahía Magdalena Complex, B.C.S., Mexico, 2016-2021.

What do we know about skinny whales? Gray whale’s poor body condition assessment in San Ignacio Lagoon and Magdalena Bay, B.C.S., Mexico.

Gray whale stranding records in Mexico during the Unusual Mortality Event (2019-2022).

Adipocyte area as indicators of energy reserve of gray whales (Eschrichtius robustus) in San Ignacio lagoon, Baja California Sur, Mexico.

Expansion of Bahía Magdalena gray whale research to document whale-watching:

We are excited to announce that in 2023 we will conduct our first full winter gray whale research program in the Bahía Magdalena lagoon complex. This expanded program will include our ongoing monitoring of gray whale seasonal abundance and distribution, and monitoring of whale-watching activities in three key areas utilized by the whales. These include:  Canal de Santo Domingo in the north; Bahía Magdalena’s center, west and southwest areas; and in Bahía Almejas in the south. LSIESP researcher Dra. Lorena Viloria-Gomora from the Universidad Autónoma de Baja California Sur (UABCS) in La Paz, B.C.S., Mexico will lead the research team for this expanded program. The program will also include monthly outreach workshops to inform the local communities of the goals and activities of the research program, discuss the biology and status of the gray whales, and to engage the local people and businesses in a dialogue to support the program. We are pleased to be hosting these workshops in collaboration with the international non-profit WildCoast’s Mexico Division “Costasalvaje A.C.”

Collaboration on Cetacean Reproductive Behavior volume:

Drs. Dara N. Orbach and Bernd Wursig of Texas A&M University are editing a new book on “Cetacean Sex, Reproduction, and Social Stratigies” that will be published on-line in 2023. Recognizing that LSIESP researchers have compiled observations of gray whale reproductive behavior in Laguna San Ignacio and in Bahía Magdalena for decades, we were invited to take the lead on developing a chapter on gray whales. This chapter is a collaboration with colleagues studying gray whales in three locations:  1.) the Western North Pacific population (WNP) that summers along Sakhalin and Kamchatka Islands, Russia 2.) the Eastern North Pacific (ENP) population that summers in Bering and Chukchi Seas, coastal regions in the Gulf of Alaska, and the Pacific Northwest, and winter s in the coastal waters of Southern California in the United States and Baja California, Mexico; and 3.) within the ENP population unique sub-groups of gray whales known as the Pacific Coast Feeding Group (PCFG) and the “Sounders” group that summer along coastal areas and within the inland waterways of the Pacific Northwest.

Photo-ID Collaboration with Cascadia Research Collective:

LSIESP Researchers are collaborating on a photo-ID project with John Calambokidis of the Cascadia Research Collective and Master’s degree Candidate Anna Blanchard from the University of Exeter, United Kingdom. This project is utilizing the “Flukebook” software platform and matching system to search for and identify female gray whales with calves photographed in Laguna San Ignacio with gray whale mothers in Cascadia’s collaborative photo-ID catalog to better understand their movements and reproductive histories. The Cascadia catalog includes gray whales from the Pacific Coast Feeding Group and the “Sounders” whose winter movements are not well documented. This project hopes to identify any of these gray whales that have wintered in Laguna San Ignacio or Bahía Magdalena in years when they were accompanied with calves and thereby verifying the reproductive histories of these breeding females and their migrations to and from the Pacific Northwest.

Lorena Magallón Flores C. completes her Master of Science Degree:

Congratulations to LSIESP researcher Lorena Magallón Flores C. on the completion of her Master of Marine Science Degree at the Universidad Autónoma de Baja California Sur (UABCS) in La Paz, B.C.S., Mexico. Her research utilized histological techniques as another approach to evaluate gray whale body inferred from the condition of “adipocytes”cells. You may view her thesis abstract here.

Please check our website for additional news updates on our research findings as we prepare for the 2032 winter gray whale research season.

Our program is a project of The Ocean Foundation and a collaboration with the Marine Mammal Research Program (PRIMMA) at the Universidad Autónoma de Baja California Sur (UABCS) in La Paz, B.C.S., Mexico.

Our field research station the “Francisco ‘Pachico’ Mayoral” laboratory opened in January 2006. Leading the Laguna San Ignacio research team is our Field Chief Dr. Sergio Martínez-Aguliar.

If you haven’t already, please consider becoming a recurring supporter of our gray whale research program in Baja California by visiting our Donation page on our website at:

Thank you from our Gray Whale research teams!


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