Newly Completed Census Of Gray Whales Off Central, South Coasts Shows Population Numbers Strong

May 31, 2016

A unique annual census in Santa Barbara County is complete, and shows the once endangered grey whale population on the West Coast appears to be healthy.

Michael Smith is project coordinator for Santa Barbara based Gray Whales Count. He says hundreds of volunteers staffed a viewing post near UC Santa Barbara from February 16th through May 26th, for the 12th annual gray whale count. 

They’re looking at the total number of whales, and even more importantly, the number of calves, which are indicators for the future of the population. 

Smith says the raw totals for this year’s county include 1,412 gray whales counted, and a record 296 calves.

He says the numbers are confirmation that the once endangered gray whale population off our coastline is in good shape. 

While the whales are known to many as California gray whales, they are actually just commuters passing through our area. 

The researcher says if you go whale watching now, you might see a gray whale straggler or two, but they’re mostly gone. Still, there are plenty of other whales to see, Smith says, like humpbacks.

Gray Whales Count is a non-profit, with the goal of helping the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration, which is charged with protecting their health monitor the population’s status.

Smith says the army of volunteers, plus financial support from foundations and businesses make the effort possible.

The data is shared with a number of groups that study gray whales and is also used as part of an educational program on whales which reaches more than a million school children annually.