Most guests joining us for our whale watching tours have a certain species in mind that they are hoping to see. Lots of guests would like to see the Orcas, others prefer Humpbacks, and some are satisfied with a few Sea otters or some Steller sea lions. I have found that after taking in all the different preferences from our guests, not a whole lot have been interested in our friendly Gray whale!
Ok, so they’re not as appealing to the eyes as say the Orcas are, the barnacles and scars from parasites that cover patches of their bodies can easily recognize them. What you may not know is that you are actually pretty lucky if you get a chance to see one of these amazing creatures on our tours. Gray whales are bottom feeders. This means they hang out pretty close to shore and scoop up crustaceans off the ocean floor such as Krill, Ghost shrimp and Crab Larvae, which can be as small as 0.1cm! Gray whales only feed in the summer months and can actually survive off the fat these little guys provide them with all winter long! Pretty amazing that one of the largest creatures in the ocean can survive off some of the smallest creatures in the ocean!
Unfortunately because the Gray whales feed in such shallow waters this made them a serious target for hunters hundreds of years ago. Gray whales would attempt to fight back against these hunters by slapping them with their tails and pectoral fins, actually causing death and giving them the nickname “The Devilfish”. But by the early 20th century the Gray whale was in serious danger of extinction. As a result, Gray whales can only be found in our Pacific Ocean now, making them a primary reason for wildlife lovers to take a trip with West Coast Aquatic Safaris.
Now protected by international law, their numbers have grown pretty significantly, and in 1994 they were removed from the endangered species list. Although this is a huge reason for our now friendly Gray whale to rank higher on your priority list, it is not the only reason. Not only are Gray whales one of the largest of the baleen whales (about 40ft and weighing about 40 tons!), but they are also one of the oldest! Yes, believe it or not the Gray whale origins go back to about 30 million years ago! They also make the largest migrations of any baleen whale, a journey of about 22 000km! Pretty impressive if you ask me!!