The gray whale, Eschrichtius robustus, has a long and bloody history of being heavily hunted commercially as well as by aboriginal whalers. At one point in the 1700’s the gray whale was extinct in the North Atlantic but still managed to make a resurgence around the world. By the early 1900’s they were at an estimated population of 15,000 to 24,000. In 2006/2007 there was an estimated population of 19,000 gray whales, which is supposedly near its carrying capacity (population of a species that is deemed sustainable in a suitable environment).
Gray whales are split into two categories: those who live along the eastern side of the Pacific Ocean and those who live along the western side. Eastern gray whales are surviving much better than their western relatives. They were taken off the United States’ endangered species list in 1994 and are now considered to be “Recovered.” The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists them as “Least Concerned.” As of 2002, there were estimated to be 15,000-22,000 Eastern gray whales left. Their population is stable for now.
The western gray whale is not so lucky. It is still listed as “Critically Endangered.” As of 2006, the estimated population was only 113-131 whales. Their numbers, however, are increasing.
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