Species Profile

Grey Whale Atlantic population

Scientific Name: Eschrichtius robustus
Taxonomy Group: Mammals
Range: Atlantic Ocean
Last COSEWIC Assessment: November 2009
Last COSEWIC Designation: Extirpated
SARA Status: Schedule 1, Extirpated


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Quick Links: | Photo | Description | Habitat | Biology | Reasons for extirpation | Protection | Recovery Initiatives | National Recovery Program | Documents

Image of Grey Whale

Grey Whale Photo 1

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Description

The Grey Whale is a large greyish coloured baleen whale. (Baleen whales have long, thin plates of keratin or baleen hanging from their upper jaws in place of teeth). The Grey Whale's body is heavily parasitized and marked with white scars. It has a small head; a large mouth; nostrils above the eyes; large, broad, pointed pectoral flippers; and rows of hair on the jaws. This whale has no dorsal fin, but it does have a row of humps located in the lower part of the back. The maximum length of these whales is 15 m; the females are larger than the males. At birth, calves measure 4.5 to 5 m.

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Distribution and Population

Historically, the Grey Whale was typically found along the continental shelf of the North Atlantic and North Pacific Oceans. The Atlantic population of Grey Whales has been extirpated; these whales are believed to have visited the Scotian Shelf, the Gulf of St Lawrence, the Grand Banks, and, possibly, Hudson Bay. At present, there are no Grey Whales in the Atlantic, and this population is considered extinct. There are no records which would indicate the size of past populations of Grey Whales in this area. The population that ranges along the Pacific Coast is migratory, breeding in the waters of Baja California, Mexico, during the winter, and moving to feeding areas as far north as Alaska in the spring. These whales may be spotted migrating along the coast of California, or feeding near the coast of British Columbia.

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Habitat

The Grey Whale is a coastal species; it frequents bays and estuaries. These whales use offshore currents during migrations.

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Biology

Grey Whales reach sexual maturity at five years of age. Females give birth to one calf every two years. The gestation period is of approximately 14 months.

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Reasons for extirpation

In the Pacific, habitat changes in areas used for calving and breeding is a limiting factor for Grey Whales; these modifications have been caused by human industrial activity. Toxic substances are also a threat, since several Grey Whales are known to have died due to substances such as pesticides, PCBs, and heavy metals. Subsistence whaling still occurs in Alaska and along the Chukotsk Peninsula.

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Protection

Federal Protection

The Grey Whale, Atlantic population, is protected under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA). More information about SARA, including how it protects individual species, is available in the Species at Risk Act: A Guide.

Provincial and Territorial Protection

To know if this species is protected by provincial or territorial laws, consult the provinces' and territories' websites.

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Recovery Initiatives

Status of Recovery Planning

Recovery Strategies :

Name Recovery Strategy for the Grey Whale (Eschrichtius robustus), Atlantic Population, in Canada
Status Final posting on SAR registry

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Recovery Progress and Activities

Summary of Progress to Date The Atlantic population of the Grey Whale is extirpated and its recovery is considered neither technically or biologically feasible. The feasibility of recovery will be re-evaluated as warranted in response to changing conditions and/or knowledge or as part of the reporting on the implementation of the recovery strategy every five years.

Documents

PLEASE NOTE: Not all COSEWIC reports are currently available on the SARA Public Registry. Most of the reports not yet available are status reports for species assessed by COSEWIC prior to May 2002. Other COSEWIC reports not yet available may include those species assessed as Extinct, Data Deficient or Not at Risk. In the meantime, they are available on request from the COSEWIC Secretariat.

5 record(s) found.

COSEWIC Assessments

  • COSEWIC Assessment Summary and Status Report: Grey Whale Eschrichtius robustus - Atlantic and Northeast Pacific Populations (2009)

    Assessment Summary – May 2000 Common name Grey Whale - Atlantic population Scientific name Eschrichtius robustus Status Extirpated Reason for designation * A reason for designation is not specified when a review of classification is conducted by means of a status appraisal summary. Occurrence Atlantic Ocean Status history Extirpated before the end of the 1800s. Designated Extirpated in April 1987. Status re-examined and confirmed in May 2000 and November 2009. Assessment Summary – April 1987 Common name Grey Whale - Northeast Pacific population Scientific name Eschrichtius robustus Status Not at Risk Reason for designation Populations decimated by exploitation have recovered. Occurrence Pacific Ocean Status history Designated Not at Risk in April 1987.

Response Statements

  • Response Statement - Grey Whale, Atlantic population (2010)

    The Grey Whale is a large greyish coloured baleen whale. (Baleen whales have long, thin plates of keratin or baleen hanging from their upper jaws in place of teeth). The Grey Whale's body is heavily parasitized and marked with white scars. It has a small head; a large mouth; nostrils above the eyes; large, broad, pointed pectoral flippers; and rows of hair on the jaws. This whale has no dorsal fin, but it does have a row of humps located in the lower part of the back. The maximum length of these whales is 15 m; the females are larger than the males. At birth, calves measure 4.5 to 5 m.

Recovery Strategies

  • Recovery Strategy for the Grey Whale (Eschrichtius robustus), Atlantic Population, in Canada (2007)

    Fisheries and Oceans Canada has led the development of this recovery strategy for the Atlantic population of grey whale. The development of the recovery strategy has involved: (i) the preparation of a draft addressing SARA requirements for recovery strategies for extirpated species; (ii) the circulation of this draft for review and comment by the provincial governments of Québec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland & Labrador; (iii) public consultations on the draft strategy; and (iv) finalisation of the proposed version for posting on the SARA public registry. The determination that recovery is not feasible, including the justification, was reviewed as part of the review and consultation process for the recovery strategy. The final decision and wording of the determination were the responsibility of the DFO and took account of the comments received.

Orders

  • Order Amending Schedule 1 to the Species at Risk Act (2012)

    The purpose of the Order Amending Schedule 1 to the Species at Risk Act is to add 18 species to Schedule 1, the List of Wildlife Species at Risk (the List), and to reclassify 7 listed species, pursuant to subsection 27(1) of SARA. This amendment is made on the recommendation of the Minister of the Environment based on scientific assessments by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) and on consultations with governments, Aboriginal peoples, stakeholders and the Canadian public.

COSEWIC Annual Reports

  • COSEWIC Annual Report - 2010 (2010)

    Under Canada’s Species At Risk Act (SARA), the foremost function of COSEWIC is to “assess the status of each wildlife species considered by COSEWIC to be at risk and, as part of the assessment, identify existing and potential threats to the species”. During the past year, COSEWIC held two Wildlife Species Assessment Meetings and reviewed the status of 79 wildlife species (species, subspecies, populations). During the meeting of November 2009, COSEWIC assessed or reviewed the classification of the status of 28 wildlife species. COSEWIC assessed or reviewed the classification of an additional 51 wildlife species (species, subspecies and populations) during their April 2010 meeting. For species already found on Schedule 1 of SARA, the classification of 32 species was reviewed by COSEWIC and the status of the wildlife species was confirmed to be in the same category (extirpated - no longer found in the wild in Canada but occurring elsewhere, endangered, threatened or of special concern). The wildlife species assessment results for the 2009-2010 reporting period include the following: Extirpated: 6 Endangered: 39 Threatened: 16 Special Concern: 17 Data Deficient: 1 This report transmits to the Minister the status of 46 species newly classified as extirpated, endangered, threatened or of special concern, fulfilling COSEWIC’s obligations under SARA Section 24 and 25. A full detailed summary of the assessment for each species and the reason for the designation can be found in Appendix I of the attached report. Since its inception, COSEWIC has assessed 602 wildlife species in various risk categories, including 262 Endangered, 151 Threatened, 166 Special Concern and 23 Extirpated. In addition, 13 wildlife species have been assessed as Extinct. Also, to date, 46 wildlife species have been identified by COSEWIC as Data Deficient and 166 wildlife species were assessed as Not at Risk. This year has been a particularly productive year for COSEWIC’s Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge (ATK) Subcommittee. In April 2010 COSEWIC approved the Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge Process and Protocol Guidelines, providing clear and agreed principles for the gathering of Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge to carry out COSEWIC functions as required under Section 15(2) of SARA (See Appendix III of the attached report). We are grateful for the rich and enthusiastic contribution made by community elders and experts in helping the ATK Subcommittee prepare the ATK protocols.