6 Gray Whales: Busy Vessel Day

6 North Bound 0 South Bound 2 EW 5 hours

Calm Flat ocean, with clear blue skies, wind 1-3 mph. A warm 68 degrees with chilly 57-58 degree water temperature. A few atypical sightings included one Motorized Paraglider passing loudly over head along the coast south then, back again north west. Two harbor seal juveniles south bound in the surf. One large fishing boat loaded with fishing poles and passengers. The U.S. Coast Guard ship made a close pass as it traveled past Bird Rock (pinnacles).

The first gray whale sighting was a pair that popped up four minutes after the U.S. Coast Guard Boat passed through traveling 1000+yards out moving quickly. Luckily my friend and droner Justin (@jayxlamar) ) was able to get out to track them just in time to see whale excrement aka whale “poop”! Not something we typically see on any day! Researchers are studying Eastern North Pacific Gray Whale excrement non-invasively with the population of gray whales (Eschrichtius robustus) known as the Pacific Coast Feeding Group (PCFG), a small group of whales that do not migrate all the way up to Alaska but stay locally within 10 Km of the Oregon Coast all summer and forage to feed. The research team at Oregon State University is able to spot whale excrement and get a small boat there quickly to scoop up and collect fresh specimens with nets. The findings were published in 2020 in Conservation Physiology . Critical information is gathered from the specimens and the test results reveal clues to the over-all health of the whales. They monitor endocrine, stress and reproductive hormone levels establishing baseline values which will help over time to see fluctuations in the test results, creating patterns at different points of the migration. This is essential information to see the impact of human interactions, ocean warming, increased boats and other motorized activities and general stress from increased noise in the ocean.

The second sighting, another pair also traveled out further and went through quickly. A large yacht followed about 30 minutes later going top speed north west along the whales path. Looking back to the point, a third pair of whales popped up exactly where the boat had just passed and another fast moving yacht came barreling through with another one close behind, seemingly in a race of some sort or in a hurry, ignoring speed limits. The wind and white caps picked up making it harder to track whales.

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