LSIESP Annual Gray Whale Research Report

LSIESP Annual Gray Whale Research Report

Winter 2022

6 researchers riding in a small motorboat on a sunny day

Annual Gray Whale Research Report for Laguna San Ignacio and Bahía Magdalena, B.C.S., México: 2022

In this report we present details of a number of outstanding events that occurred during our research and monitoring of the Eastern North Pacific gray whales in Baja California Sur, México in 2022 winter. These include:

* Launching of our new research panga the RV MASAM (Mayan word for “Whale”):  Page 5.

* Abundance of single gray whales in both areas were greater than that observed in recent years, but the numbers of female-calf pairs continued lower than historical records:  Page 6.

* Photo-Identification surveys document the number and residence times of individual whales that visited Laguna San Ignacio and Bahía Magdalena in 2022:  Page 10.

* The continuing elevated mortality of adult and juvenile gray whales in Baja California suggests that Unusual Mortality Event (UME) that started in 2019 is still affecting the gray whale population:  Page 13.

* Drone photogrammetry and boat-based photographic identification surveys continue to document high proportions of “skinny” single whales while the body condition mother-calf pairs of whales were in good condition:  Page 14.

* Strandings & Mortalities in Laguna San Ignacio and Bahía Magdalena in 2022:  Page 18.

* Return of “Old Timers – Female gray whales first see in Laguna San Ignacio from 1977 to 1982 returned to the lagoons and were photographed in 2022, revising the minimum age estimate for female gray whales:  Page 21.

* Six gray whales photographed in Laguna San Ignacio and Bahía Magdalena were matched with photographs of whales from the Western North Pacific population:  Page 22.

* Killer whales (Orcinus orca) entered Laguna San Ignacio for the 1st time in history:  Page 24.

* Team members successfully disentangled a gray whale calf that was wrapped in fish trap lines and floats:  Page 25.

* Researchers and eco-tour boat drivers collaborated to free an adult gray whale that was stranded on a shallow sand bar:  Page 28.

* Team members were able to give a limited number of lectures to ecotourism groups visiting Laguna San Ignacio, and several “virtual Webinars” about the lagoon research and the gray whale UME were presented to select natural history and university groups:  Page 29.