New peril for gray whale survival? Predatory orcas spotted in Baja calving lagoon
Marine biologists and conservationists are concerned about a new threat to gray whales: a new predator, possibly more aggressive than previously known orcas. The new species of killer appears to be opportunistic and opportunistic predators are not uncommon. This is a scenario that could cause gray whales to suffer a deadly blow.
By: Tom Reichert, Science
There are very few places on Earth for whales to hide but, in the case of gray whales, their hiding place is far and away the Baja California Peninsula, off the coast of Mexico.
Although some gray whales have been seen in the Baja estuary, this behavior is usually short-lived, lasting only about 15 minutes or so. Scientists have even used sonar to spot and track whales in the area, but it was not clear if they were feeding on the right kind of fish. The gray whale population that lives in the Baja Peninsula is not stable, so a sighting of a different species in the same place could have serious impacts for gray whales.
The first sighting in the Baja Peninsula and the only confirmed sighting was made by Dr. David Schaller, who is with the National Weather Service in San Diego, on February 27, 2009. At 1:30 am, he noted a female gray whale in the Baja Lagoon, near the entrance to the Laguna San Ignacio, and gave a description of the animal.
The gray whale is an endangered animal, according to The Whale and Dolphin Conservation Campaign.
That gray whale was the first sighting of a new species of killer whale. The most recent sighting occurred on June 26, 2011, near the same location, with a second sighting on July 29, 2011.
The new killer whale in the Baja Lagoon is more aggressive than previously known orcas, according to a marine biologist with the Mexican National Research Council. He says the new killer whale is not known to prey on gray whales, but that it may be “more opportunistic and opportunistic predator.”
It has been a difficult time for the gray whale, the nation’s largest animal, which was listed as endangered by the U.S. by the Endangered Species Act because of a steep decline in the population. Today there is only a handful of individuals left in the population in the Baja Peninsula.
“People in Baja