New peril for gray whale survival? Predatory orcas spotted in Baja calving lagoon
(Photos by Mark Nieske and J. Paul Brown)
Two giant orcas have been spotted near the Baja California breeding ground in Laguna San Ignacio. They have also been seen near the U.S. breeding ground in Southern California.
“They are very close to the breeding grounds. They will continue to move away from the breeding grounds,” Piotrowski said. “I’m watching them, but I don’t have a sense of where they are going.”
The gray whale population in the northwest Pacific is at risk of massive extinction. The Southern California gray whale population is the largest in the world.
California gray whales are threatened by a decline in prey abundance and by a growing frequency with which they are killed by humans for their ivory.
In 2009, a gray whale and its calf were found floating dead near San Diego. While the cause of death has not been determined, experts suspect that marine pollution may have been involved. A month later a gray whale was found drowned in California; its killer whale was the first death of this species to be attributed to a marine-based environmental disaster.
“In the United States, [the ocean] has become a dumping ground for pollutants. Most of the time we let it flow away,” Fish and Wildlife Bureau biologist, Mike Piotrowski, said in a telephone interview earlier this year. “We are only now beginning to learn what is in the ocean and how it affects the whales and humans.”
Piotrowski and the rest of the world’s conservation agencies are fighting to save the California gray whale population.
A new study indicates that the Pacific gray whale population may start to decrease in the next 15 years or so.
The species was listed as endangered in 1979 after a long battle with pollution and human activity — and it has been in recovery ever since.