Eschrichtius robustus 

Scope: Europe
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Mammalia Cetartiodactyla Eschrichtiidae

Scientific Name: Eschrichtius robustus (Lilljeborg, 1861)
Regional Assessments:
Common Name(s):
English Gray Whale, Grey Whale
Spanish Ballena Gris
<i>Eschrichtius</i> <i>gibbosus</i> Erxleben 1777

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Regionally Extinct (Regional assessment) ver 3.1
Year Published: 2007
Date Assessed: 2007-01-26
Needs updating
Assessor(s): Species account by IUCN SSC Cetacean Specialist Group; regional assessment by European Mammal Assessment team
Reviewer(s): Greg Donovan and Philip Hammond
The gray whale has been Regionally Extinct since the 1700s or earlier.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:The gray whale was once found in the North Atlantic. Sub-fossil remains, the most recent dated at around 1675, have been found on the eastern seaboard of North America from Florida to new Jersey, and on the coasts of the English Channel and the North and Baltic seas. There are historical accounts of living gray whales from Iceland in the early 1600s and possibly off New England in the early 1700s (Rice 1998). Gray whales are now only found in the North Pacific and adjacent waters.
FAO Marine Fishing Areas:
Pacific – eastern central; Pacific – northeast
Additional data:
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:This species is extinct in the North Atlantic. In the North Pacific, the eastern stock has recovered strongly from past over-exploitation, and the most recent population estimate is 15,000-22,000 for 2001/02. The western Pacific stock remains at a small fraction of past levels and is estimated to number about 100 individuals, of which 20-30 are mature females (Reeves et al. 2005). It is considered Critically Endangered.
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:Gray whales are primarily bottom feeders and are thus restricted to shallow continental shelf waters for feeding. They are largely coastal although they do feed at greater distances from shore on the shallow flats of the Bering and Chukchi seas.

Gray whales feed primarily on swarming mysids, tube-dwelling amphipods, and polychaete tube worms in the northern parts of their range, but are also known to take red crabs, baitfish, and other food (crab larvae, mobile amphipods, herring eggs and larvae, cephalopods, and megalops) opportunistically or off the main feeding grounds.

Most groups are small, often with no more than three individuals, but gray whales do sometimes migrate in pods of up 16, and larger aggregations are common on the feeding and breeding grounds. ‘Aerial’ behaviour such as breaching and spyhopping are common, especially during migration, and in and near the breeding lagoons of Baja California and mainland Mexico.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Gray whales have been subject to hunting since prehistoric times, due to their slow swimming speeds and coastal distribution. The North Atlantic population was extinct by the early 1700s although the causes are unclear. Overexploitation was though to have caused the extinction of the western gray whale until Soviet scientists in the 1980s reported a small remnant group summering off Sakhalin Island, Russia. The eastern North Pacific population had reached such low numbers by the end of the 19th century that commercial whaling ceased, but has now recovered to at or near carrying capacity, its abundance showing some fluctuation in response to environmental conditions.
The eastern North Pacific population is subject to anthropogenic threats such as entanglements in fishing gear (Baird et al. 2002), disturbance by vessels and other noise, collisions, and possibly petroleum-related and other contaminants (Moore and Clarke 2002). However, these do not appear to be important for the demography of the population.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: The gray whale is regionally extinct in European waters, so there are no conservation measures for this species in the region. Gray whales have been protected from commercial whaling by the International Whaling Commission since its establishment in the 1946. Limited aboriginal subsistence whaling is permitted by the IWC for the eastern gray whale and catch limits have been set since the 1970s on the basis of advice from its Scientific Committee.

Citation: Species account by IUCN SSC Cetacean Specialist Group; regional assessment by European Mammal Assessment team. 2007. Eschrichtius robustus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2007: e.T8097A12885185. . Downloaded on 15 August 2018.
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