Marine Animals, Pacific Northwest
The Gray Whale is one of our Pacific Northwest most popular whales to view, they can grow to more than 20 meters in length and weigh more than 36 tonnes. Gray whales usually live in small groups of up to 5 members. The largest pod observed though, had 16 members.
They are often seen diving out of the water at amazing speeds. Researchers believe this process helps to remove parasites from their bodies. When l was a young man, l was working up on Nootka Island, one Sunday, l was sitting down by the sea with my back against logs we had piled up on the beach, ready to be pushed into log booms and loaded on barges. As l was sitting there not more than 3 meters from the water, enjoying the sun, there was all of a sudden water flying all around me and a great noise, it was a gray whale who had learned to run along the beach, scraping his belly on the gravel to remove parasites, I was quite wet but it was an amazing moment.
Gray whales find their food at the very bottom of waters, and mainly consume crustaceans.
Research has shown that the age of a gray whale isn’t the only distinction influencing reproduction. While the average age of maturity is from 5 to 11 years for males & females, those reaching a length of at least 12 meters may be ready to reproduce at a younger age. Gestation takes just over a year before the baby emerges. A newborn can weigh up to 800 kilos and be more than 5 meters long.
Although commercial hunting of this species is illegal, it still takes place in both Japan and Europe. Japan eats the whales and Russia use’s the meat as animal feed. In addition to humans, gray whales are sometimes hunted by killer whales.
In natural environments, with conservation efforts in place, the gray whale can live to about 60 years of age. Efforts have been paying off, and gray whale concerns have lessened, with time.