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Marine Animal Encyclopedia

Gray Whale Eschrichtius robustus

Unlike other baleen whales, the gray whale feeds on the sea floor, filtering animals out of the sediment. Its body is gray with white mottling, and it has a narrowish head, with yellowish baleen plates up to 16 in (40 cm) long.

The gray whale's entire body is often heavily encrusted with barnacles and whale lice. Although gray whales stay close to the coast, they carry out record-breaking migrations. On the west coast of North America, large numbers of gray whales migrate between the Bering Sea and Baja California in Mexico, a round trip of up to 12,400 miles (20,000 km).

Unfortunately, their coast-hugging habits make them easy prey for whalers. By the mid-1900s, gray whales had been almost wiped out, but legal protection has allowed their numbers to recover.

What Oceana Does to Protect Gray Whales

Oceana works to protect marine mammals such as the gray whale from becoming bycatch in commercial fisheries.

Gray Whalezoom image
  • Order Cetacea
  • Length 40–50 ft (12–15 m)
  • Weight 17–39 tons (15–35 metric tons)
  • Habitat Temperate and subpolar coastal waters
  • Distribution North Pacific, Bering Sea, Arctic Ocean
Gray Whale habitat mapzoom image