At season's end for Russian western gray whale expedition, new mother-calf pair sighted

We photographed nine individual gray whales, seven of which we have already sighted this summer.

This post was filed from the field by the International Fund for Animal Welfare Western Gray Whale Research team collectively. - MV

Our western gray whale research in north-eastern Sakhalin is continued, but close to the end of 2013 field season.

Soon, we will be finalizing the results of our two-month work in gray whales’ Piltun feeding area, and hopefully despite unfavorable weather conditions, we will have a lot of information to process and analyze.

SEE ALSO: Russian western gray whale expedition update: sneaking a peek at playful young ones

Speaking about weather, it surely is not making our work easy here. After working day on August 7th, we had bad weather till August 14th. South-eastern winds continue non-stop, but usually for the weather to improve we need some other wind, which happens almost never this season.

So, every day we keep seeing either fog at sea, or both at sea and in the camp, or with the worst scenario of fog all around. However, despite all that we still enjoy our life in the middle of Piltun tundra by the sea of Okhotsk.

August 14th became a pleasant surprise for us, when in the afternoon fog lifted away and with the wind being a bit stronger than we prefer, we decided to take this chance and went out to the sea.

It was only couple hours of effort and pretty rough sea in the beginning, but we were happy about our decision to go out on the boat. We photographed nine individual gray whales, seven of which we have already sighted this summer.

Two other whales were new not just for the season, but it was a new mother-calf pair (this added up our total number of pairs of 2013 season to eight). The mother in this pair was known female seen with calves in previous years.

We also, observed a group of young whales (few calves of this year separated from their mothers, one yearling, and one calf of 2011). They were feeding, playing, and rolling at the surface, showing heads and pectorals.

But, as they say, good never comes in big amounts!

Next day brought fogs, mist, rains and winds, and all this continued for another four days. Today in the evening, finally rain stopped, south-eastern wind changed to northern one (but, very strong northern wind!), and fog disappeared.

And although, the sea looks too stormy and powerful, we hope that we will have another chance to work before our season ends.

--WGW Expedition

The western gray whale (WGW) expedition is a team of scientists from Russia and the USA that have been returning every summer since 1995 to Sakhalin Island (in the Sea of Okhotsk near Piltun Bay) to monitor and research western gray whales. Annually since 2000 IFAW has supported this research program that collects population data through photo-identification and genetic analysis of skin tissue biopsy samples. Information about population condition is very important to understanding the impact and influence of oil industry on the WGW population, and is key to IFAW’s WGW campaign.

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Brian Sharp, Emergency Relief Officer, Stranding Coordinator
Manager, Marine Mammal Rescue and Research
Dr. Maria (Masha) N. Vorontsova, Senior Advisor to the IFAW Marine Conservation
Senior Advisor to the IFAW Marine Conservation Program
Matt Collis, Director, International Policy
Director, International Policy
Patrick Ramage, Program Director, Whales
Program Director, Marine Conservation