Contact: Michael Harris,
Executive Director, Pacific Whale Watch Association

(206) 465-6692

 February 13, 2014


Record Number of Gray Whales Heading This Way – Pacific Whale Watch Association Crews Report First Sightings in the Sound and Straits

The Great Migration of 22,000 Eastern North Pacific gray whales is well underway, and the first of these epic travelers are already showing up in the Sound and Straits of Washington and British Columbia. Pacific Whale Watch Association (PWWA) crews are gearing up for an earlier-than-expected gray whale watch season.

As spring approaches, these majestic creatures, which can reach 50 feet and 40 tons, begin a journey of between 5,000 and 6,800 miles from the warm-water calving lagoons in Mexico’s Baja Peninsula and Gulf of California to the Bering and Chukchi Seas of Alaska, traveling constantly at about five knots and averaging 75 miles per day.  It’s the longest migration of any mammal on Earth.

“This northern migration has been extraordinary,” explains Shari Tarantino, President of Seattle-based Orca Conservancy, who’s currently in northern California working with The Center for Whale Research and other research groups in tracking Southern Resident orcas off the coast. “We’ve seen record numbers of grays making their way north, and we’ve been documenting some spectacular and very unexpected behavior from them.  Not long ago we had three or four juvenile grays playing in the kelp within a cove next to the Point Arena Lighthouse. They must have missed the memo as they hung around for a couple of days, rolling around, spyhopping, pec slapping, and actually playing around in the waves along the shore.  We counted 35 grays on that day alone, with groups of six-to-eight traveling together. Really unusual. We’re also seeing a large number of transient orcas stalking the grays, so those juveniles might want to pick up the pace.”

“We’ve been anticipating an early and busy gray whale watch this season, based on these reports from our friends in California,” explains Michael Harris, Executive Director of PWWA.  “And if these grays are as boisterous as they’ve been down south, it could make for some spectacular viewing up here. We’re fortunate that we get about a dozen gray whales who hang out each spring for long periods of time feeding on ghost shrimp – what we call “residents” – but from the sound of things, we should be getting a lot of migratory whales in here, too.  And maybe some hungry orcas following them in.  One of our whale watch captains witnessed orcas hunting grays in the Sound about four years ago, but it’s extremely rare to have that kind of action happen here. Hold onto your hat.”

Gray whales are perhaps the most paradoxical creatures on the planet.  They’ve been called “devil fish,” fierce protectors of calves and the only known whale to fight back when hunted by humans, as they were almost to extinction in the previous century.  And yet in calving lagoons such as Bahia San Ignacio, Mexico, they’re known as the “friendly whales,” coming right up to small whale watch boats with their babies, allowing people to pet them.  The Eastern North Pacific grays are also a poster child for species recovery, being the only whale population ever to be taken off the U.S. Endangered Species Act.

For information on current gray whale sightings and tours:


Island Adventures Whale Watching, Everett:  (800) 465-4604

Mystic Sea Charters, Langley:  (800) 308-9387

Prince of Whales Whale Watching, Victoria, BC:  (250) 383-4884

San Juan Island Whale & Wildlife Tours, Friday Harbor:  (360) 298-0012

Puget Sound Express, Port Townsend:  (360) 385-5288

Deception Pass Tours, Oak Harbor:  (888) 909-8687

Victoria Clipper, Seattle:  (800) 888-2535

HOW TO HELP:  For all those who want to help the whales, become a Member of The Center for Whale Research! The Pacific Whale Watch Association is proud to be a longtime supporter of Ken Balcomb and his team.  Help them help the whales.


About orcaconservancy

Orca Conservancy is an all-volunteer, 501(c)(3) non-profit organization working on behalf of orcinus orca, the killer whale, and protecting the wild places on which it depends. Successful Petitioner and Litigant in historic U.S. District Court case to list Southern Resident orcas as "Endangered" under the U.S. Endangered Species Act -- the first-ever federal protection for the population. Leader in the Springer Project, the first-ever successful translocation and reintroduction of a wild killer whale, a rescue that captured the attention of the world.
This entry was posted in miscellaneous. Bookmark the permalink.


  1. scott mercer says:

    Interesting article. However, while there soon will be a large northward movement, the record setting movement of gray whales this season is southbound, as reported in many media outlets and including network television. The movement north by gray whales is just now beginning by a few whales. The annual Census of Gray Whales by the American Cetacean Society (ACS) at Palos Verdes coordinated by Alisa Schulman-Janiger, recorded ts 1000th southward gray whale last week, with only a few northbound. We, Mendonoma Whale and Seal Study, have been counting daily from cliffs along the northern Sonoma and Mendocino coasts since late December. We are currently in a lull period in the count . The southward movement is withering, and northward is just starting. While we have not yet tallied our counts, we have seen perhaps a dozen northbound, while our southbound total is well in the hundreds. Our high count on 25 January was 68 and all southbound. Yesterday, 2/14, we counted 8 southbound grays and 3 northbound. We post our daily tallies on Facebook and share our information with the ACS as well as the Whale Watch Report and others. Scott Mercer, Mendonoma Whale and Seal Study.

Comments are closed.