Western Gray Whale Research: Some Good Weather

The fluke of a western gray whale.

Lately, the weather was favorable, and we went out on the boat during five days in a row.

It was truly enjoyable for us to work in such perfect weather conditions. During these days, we covered 50 km of our study area along the coast, and photographed and identified 56 different individuals, including five mother-calf pairs.

Three of five females that arrived to Sakhalin with the calves, have been sighted as mothers in previous years. We were lucky to photograph a few whales that we have not seen for last couple years.

Also, we photographed two whales that were calves in 2009, and two calves of 2010. Some of the whales are still arriving to Piltun feeding area, which gives us a hope to find more whales in next couple weeks.

On 18th July, we saw 18 gray whales within 11 km south of the lighthouse, including a big group of seven individuals feeding together.

The back of a western gray whale as it dives.

Before the expedition took its place, we received permits on taking a biopsy from 30 gray whales – a genetic sample of a whale’s tissue.

Later, this data will be processed and analyzed in a genetic laboratory, and will provide us with information on sex and relatedness of individuals in the population, and also, allow us to compare them to whales from eastern population.

We managed to take a biopsy from 4 new calves and 4 adult gray whales, but hope to achieve our task by the end of this expedition.

Five long days of work brought tiredness and lots of data that we have to process; therefore we had mixed feelings when the weather turned bad.

However, we do not put our rubber boots aside as the weather on Sakhalin is very changeable!

-- Lena and the International Fund for Animal Welfare Western Gray Whale Piltun Team:

Dolgova Evgeniya,
Sidorenko Maksim,
Sychenko Olga,
Vorob'ev Vitalii,
Fedin Dmitrii,
Sereda Aleksei

For more information on the International Fund for Animal Welfare effort to protect whales around the world, visit https://www.ifaw.org

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