50 years, the gray whales have miraculously recovered from
near extinction, the only mammal ever to have done so. This
has ironically earned them the dubious distinction of being
the only marine mammal ever to have been removed from the
endangered species list in 1994, exposing them to hunting
once again. The International Whaling Commission has declared
them a "sustained management stock" and permits
hundreds to be killed yearly. Currently the Makah Nation
in Western Washington is resuming hunting and several native
nations in British Columbia are also considering this new
economic opportunity under the guise of cultural traditional
gray whales are not being hunted on a large scale, cetologists
have serious concerns about the impacts of industrial toxic
pollutants on their food source as well as the increase
in collisions due to heavier shipping traffic. The increase
in commercial whale watching has also been documented to
have altered behavior and migration patterns and harassment
has become a disturbing issue. Various groups are monitoring
this stimulation and several studies are underway to determine
how whale watching impacts the animals.
continue to study whales, what they are eating, how they
migrate, social behaviors and calving intervals etc. Photo
identification projects enable us to recognize individual
whales by their markings so we may learn valuable information
that may help us help the whales survive.
leads the world in whale conservation efforts recognizing
the fragility of Baja's calving lagoons. In 1972, Ojo de
Liebre (Scammon's Lagoon) was declared a whale sanctuary,
the first of its kind worldwide, followed by the protection
of San Ignacio Lagoon in 1979. This whole area, (1.5 million
ha) was designated the Vizcaino Biosphere Reserve in 1988.
This world class park covering 1/3 of the Baja peninsula
is proudly managed by the Mexican government controlling
development as well as whale watching operations to protect
both whales and their environment from commercial exploitation.
it is critical that the breeding grounds be fully protected,
other countries along the migration route should be encouraged
to also preserve feeding areas crucial to the whale's survival
and to legislate effective harassment regulations. We must
find new ways to coexist with minimal impact on the whales
and their home.