Two female western gray whales, Agent and Varvara, left the coast of Russia late last year and are now half-way across the Gulf of Alaska. For the second consecutive year, an international team of scientists successfully tagged endangered whales off Sakhalin Island and the team is now tracking the animals via satellite.
The western gray whale population is listed as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened SpeciesTM. The estimated population size in 2010 was about 136 whales, including only around 30 mature females. Little is currently known about the migration routes and wintering areas of this population. Knowing more about their movements will make it easier to develop appropriate conservation measures.
Six whales have been tagged this year, but only Agent and Varvara are still being tracked; the other tags presumably came off. So far, they are following the same path as Flex, the male western gray whale that was tagged and tracked in 2010.
This research represents a major international collaboration and is conducted by A.N. Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution of the Russian Academy of Sciences (IEE RAS) and Oregon State University Marine Mammal Institute in collaboration with the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service and Kronotsky State Nature Biosphere Reserve. The 2011 research is contracted through the International Whaling Commission (IWC) and International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) with funding from Exxon Neftegas Ltd., Sakhalin Energy Investment Company Ltd. and Mrs Maja Hoffmann.
To learn more about the life history of the tagged whales and follow their movements, please visit: http://mmi.oregonstate.edu/sakhalin2011
For more information, please contact:
Beatrice Riche, Logistics and Communications Officer, IUCN Global Marine and Polar Programme, e-mail: Beatrice.Riche@iucn.org
Olivier Hasinger, Marine Officer, IUCN Global Marine and Polar Programme, e-mail: Olivier.Hasinger@iucn.org