Whale migration to Alaska is under way

Posted: Monday, April 14, 2003

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) The migration of gray whales from the Baja Peninsula in Mexico to waters off Alaska is well under way.

The first whale of the season was spied cruising through Cheval Narrows at the mouth of Resurrection Bay on April 1 by the crew and tourists aboard the Kenai Explorer, said Leslie Hines, education coordinator for the Kenai Fjords Tours.

We didn't see any yesterday, but we are seeing them on a regular basis. With whales, you have to be in the right place at the right time,'' she said last week.

Hines notified Journey North, an organization that posts online updates on the spring movements of a dozen species across North America, including manatees, robins, hummingbirds and the Porcupine caribou herd.

The report went out April 2 to more than 460,000 students at 9,500 schools.

As though on cue, six more grays were seen swimming past Agnes Cove in the outer portion of Resurrection Bay later that morning. A couple of them did fluke up and show their tails,'' Hines said.

People touring with Renown Charter also saw gray whales in the bay about the same time, said Karen Landry.

The very next day a flotilla of gray whales had reached Kodiak Island. Federal biologist Kathy Hough reported seeing at least 13 gray whales during an aerial survey off Narrow Cape, with three hugging the shore, according to Susan Payne, coordinator of the Kodiak whale watching festival that begins this weekend.

They have more than arrived,'' Payne said Tuesday in an e-mail message.

Every spring, gray whales travel up the Pacific Coast from Mexico in one of the world's longest whale migrations, a 5,000-mile journey that ultimately takes them to summer feeding grounds in the Bering, Chukchi and Beaufort seas.

Over the past few years, Journey North has tracked the passage of an estimated 20,000 whales as they surface along the California, Oregon, Washington and British Columbia coasts, then broadcasts Alaska's first report to the world.

Grays aren't alone. Other whales sighted recently in Resurrection Bay include two fin whales scarfing plankton last week near Pilot Rock and a big humpback this week, Hines said. Several gray whales, possibly nonbreeding males, have been seen off and on all winter near Kodiak.

On the Net:

Journey North migration news: www.learner.org/jnorth/current.html

Kodiak Whale Festival: www.whalefestkodiak.org

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