Blue Whale Research by Diane Gendron

Although the blue whale has been under protection for almost 50 years, it is still showing slow rate of recovery from the effect of whaling and remains in the IUCN endangered species red list (IUCN, 2010).

The Northeastern Pacific blue whales represent the only population that is apparently showing sign of increase. However, there is a concern of increasing ship strikes reported off California where most of these whales feed during summer-fall. About 300 of these blue whales migrate south to the Gulf of California, where they spend part of the winter and spring seasons. Although whales are known to fast during the winter months, theses blue whales continue to feed actively and females are often observed nursing their calf, particularly along the coastal area between the cities of Loreto and La Paz.

Blue whales are recognized through photographs by their natural pigmentation patterns that are visible on their back. Using this technique, individual blue whales have been tracked over the last 20 years, and we are now getting valuable information on the population parameters such as survival rates, calving intervals and abundance estimates. Several of these whales, especially sexually mature females, are seen in the same area almost every winters which also suggest preference to certain areas in the Gulf of California. These habitats also attack coastal development projects such as tourist resorts and Marinas that will inevitably generate more marine traffic, underwater noise and other habitat disturbances that uses this population. To monitor future habitat changes in the Gulf of California, a study on individual behavior and movement is currently undergoing to assess their daily activities, habitat uses and interaction with whale watching boats.

The information gathered before and during those changes will help to propose adequate regulations to the species management plan in this critical habitat.

Text by Diane Gendron.

Listen to Diane Gendron speak about her blue whale research here.