California Gray Whale

Whale-003California Gray Whale PBC’s Earth Hero Honoree 2011

Educational Resources

Of all our marine species, the majestic gray whale is the monarch symbol of California. These large, magnificent, intelligent, aquatic mammals are the most ancient baleen whales alive today! We all marvel at the sight of the whales spouting, fluking, breaching or spy-hopping, even when they are half a mile away. Pacifica is blessed to have these marvelous creatures migrating or visiting along our shoreline. Their annual migration of up to 12,000 miles is considered to be the longest of any mammal on earth. Gray whales are a primary indicator species regarding the health of our ocean and coastlines.  They have roamed our oceans for nearly 30 million years. In the 21st century,  only one viable race survives, the Eastern Pacific Gray whale. Its relative, the Western Pacific Gray whale is ecologically extinct. In the mid 1800s to early 1900s, commercial whaling severely depleted the California Gray Whale (known as the Eastern Pacific Gray Whale). They are unable to defend themselves from human activity and intense industrialization along their migration route. Many whales are starving as a result of climate change impacting their feeding grounds. 10% of the current migration are emaciated.  Major threats include entanglement in fishing gear, habitat degradation, disturbance from ecotourism and whale watching, disturbance from low-frequency noise (underwater sonar), plastic and toxic pollution, and the possibility that illegal whaling or resumed legal whaling will remove animals at biologically unsustainable rates.

Photo credit: Alejandro Zepeda/EPA