How many gray whales are still alive

Gray whale (Eschrichtius robustus)

Smallpox-coated giants

The gray whale is one of the 13 species that belong to the suborder of the baleen whales (Mysticeti). In contrast to the toothed whales (Odontoceti), these do not have teeth, but rather numerous long, fringed horn plates, with the help of which they filter their food from the sea. Gray whales eat crustaceans, woodlice, bristle worms and molluscs in shallow waters from five to 100 meters deep, which live on the sea floor only a few centimeters deep in the bottom sediment

Gray whales differ greatly from their conspecifics in one particular feature: They do not have a dorsal fin, but instead have eight to nine small, flat "humps" on the back third of their backs. Of all cetaceans, the skin of the gray whale is most heavily overgrown with wallae (Cyamidae) and barnacles (Balanidae), which give the skin a "crusty" appearance.

As with the other baleen whales, the females of this species are up to 15 meters longer than the males of the same age. Pregnant females can weigh up to 34 tons and thus weigh twice as much as the bulls.

Until the 17th century there were gray whales in three major distribution areas: in the North Atlantic, in the western and eastern North Pacific. Today there are only two gray whale occurrences in the East Pacific and in the West Pacific. Whaling significantly reduced their numbers. The North Atlantic population has even been wiped out. The populations in the Pacific were also on the verge of extinction. To date, only the East Pacific gray whale populations have recovered. The West Pacific gray whales are more threatened than ever by oil and gas drilling, such as a consortium led by Shell, off the island of Sakhalin.

Dolphins and whales such as the gray whale are among the key species of the WWF. Therefore, the environmental foundation has set itself the goal of protecting them worldwide. The WWF supports projects to protect endangered whale species - for example by promoting whale sanctuaries, developing measures against unintentional bycatch of whales in fishing nets or through studies of the influence of marine pollution on whales.