Smaller number of gray whales migrating south to breed, says researcher

Fewer gray whales are migrating from North Pacific feeding grounds to warm Mexican lagoons to breed this year. British whale researcher William Megill says only 90 whales made it to the San Ignacio lagoon on Mexico’s Baja Peninsula by February — down about 50 percent from the same time last year. Scientists have noted an abrupt rise in Bering Sea ocean temperatures since 2000, and a parallel decline in the worm and shrimp populations the whales depend on to fuel up for their annual 5,000-mile journey. “I wouldn’t be surprised to see carcasses up and down the coast, because they didn’t have enough food,” says Megill. Oceanographer Sue Moore is more optimistic, saying the whales appear to be adjusting to changing ocean conditions by feeding in new areas and heading south a bit later. “Gray whales are very resilient and can feed on a variety of prey all along their migration route,” she says.