Protect Our Oceans

Oregon’s gray whales are different, according to new research

Thousands of gray whales migrate up and down our Pacific Coast every year, but a small number of them hang around in Oregon's waters. New research from Oregon scientists indicates that they differ in size when compared to their more transient counterparts.


A gray whale spy-hopping above the water's surface

Imagine looking out to sea with a pair of binoculars along our coast and being pleasantly surprised by the sight of a pod of nearly 200 gray whales.

Every year, over 15,000 of them make the arduous back and forth trek from Mexico to the Arctic. Along the way, some of them choose to stick around Oregon and the Pacific Northwest. These “summer resident” whales, as they’ve come to be known, are genetically identical to the others.

But new research from Oregon State University scientists indicates one key difference to their more transient fellows: they are a few feet shorter.

Scientists believe one possible explanation is that this shorter size may help resident whales better navigate shallow coastal waters to forage on plentiful kelp beds. However, scientists also expressed concern that since these whales hang around closer to shore, they are at increased risk from human threats like boat strikes and entanglements, which could be mitigated if vessels reduced their speeds and fishermen used more ropeless gear.

You can read more about Oregon’s gray whales and the fascinating new research here.

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