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Along the Whales' Highway

Protecting gray whales in Baja and the Beaufort Sea

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Listen to a gray whale

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How far would you travel for a good meal? Whatever your answer, it’s probably not as ambitious as the journey of a gray whale.

Each year, gray whales in the eastern Pacific traverse a 6,000-mile course that stretches from winter breeding grounds in the shallow lagoons of Baja, Mexico, to summer feeding grounds in Alaska’s frigid Beaufort Sea—one of the longest mammal migrations on the planet. In March 2011, photographer Florian Schulz caught the gaze of one such whale.

In the warm waters off the Baja Peninsula, whales gather for courtship and mating, while already expectant mothers give birth to calves. Here, research teams study whale health and populations, looking for evidence of threats individuals have faced on their journey south, such as ship strike scars or chemical pollution in body tissue. Arctic efforts focus on the whales’ feeding grounds, addressing threats posed by oil and gas development and shipping. A WWF-supported research team is also mapping the region’s biodiversity, physical features, and likely evolution in the face of climate change—all to identify the most crucial areas for wildlife.

In brief, we’re trying to keep these areas safe, so gray whales will face fewer dangers as they swim north for a hard-earned feast.

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