Gray whale photographic identification in 1998

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Calambokidis, J., J. Quan, L. Schlender, M. Gosho, and P. Gearin. 1999. Gray whale photographic identification in 1998Final Report to the National Marine Mammal Laboratory, Seattle, WA.

Executive summary

In 1998, Cascadia Research and the National Marine Mammal Laboratory conducted photographic identification surveys for gray whale found in the waters of Washington State and along the southern coastline of Vancouver Island. A larger regional effort was also conducted from California to Southeastern Alaska involving a number of other collaborators including researchers with Humpboldt State University, West Coast Whale Research Foundation, University of Victoria, University of British Columbia, Vancouver Aquarium, Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Coastal Ecosystem Research Foundation, and the operator of a coastal ferry service. This research updates previous research efforts, which have revealed that a large number of gray whales seen off Washington State and British Columbia exhibit localized site fidelity.  The information provided by this research contributes to an ongoing study of abundance, movements, residence times, and return rate of gray whales that feed in the Washington State waters for extended periods.  This report summarizes activities and preliminary results of gray whale research conducted in Washington State and southern Vancouver Island in 1998 by Cascadia and NMML. Results of the larger effort from California to Alaska will be summarized in a future report.

Between 2 March and 17 November 1998, Cascadia personnel conducted a total of 53 gray whale surveys in the waters of Washington State and off the southern coastline of Vancouver BC.   The National Marine Mammal Laboratory (NMML) provided identification photographs from # surveys, conducted between 6 June and 18 November 1998. On 249 occasions, 74 different gray whales where successfully identified by Cascadia Research and NMML in 1998.

Fewer whales were present on the northern Washington and western Strait of Juan de Fuca than previous years and most of the identifications in this region were made late in the season (after 1 September). Of the 57 seen on the northern Washington coast and on the north and south side of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, 32 (56%) had been identified in past years, a lower proportion than previous years. Individual whales moved between S. Vancouver Island and the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Washington outer coast. At least six different whales were present (from 27 identifications) in northern Puget Sound; four of these were animals that have been seen regularly each spring in this area since the early 1990s. None of the four gray whales identified in southern Puget Sound had been seen previously, consistent with past findings that this area is not used by regular returning animals.

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