Gray Whales in Steep Decline

After peaking at nearly 27,000 whales in 2016, the population of eastern North Pacific gray whales has plummeted to around 14,500 in 2023—a startling 46 percent decline and nearly 7,000 fewer animals than when the gray whale’s Endangered Species Act protections were removed in 1994.

photo by Jon493/Wirestock Creators
photo by Jon493/Wirestock Creators

The precipitous decline may be linked to climate change, as ocean temperatures warm, causing shifts in prey availability and other changes to summer feeding grounds in the Arctic. Known causes of gray whale deaths include ship strikes, entanglement in fishing gear, and hunting by Indigenous whalers in Russia. In 2021, an administrative law judge recommended that a waiver be issued under the Marine Mammal Protection Act to allow gray whale hunts by the Makah Tribe of Washington. AWI strongly opposes this potential waiver, particularly given the current crisis.

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