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The recent sighting of a Gray whale (pictured) off the coast of Israel has triggered great excitement, and some head scratching amongst conservation experts as it either heralds the return of the North Atlantic Gray whale (previously thought to be extinct for hundreds of years), or the whale in question has shattered all previous records for the longest migration by the species.
At one stage there were three populations of Gray whale. The North Atlantic population became extinct in the 17th -18th centuries for reasons that are not clear, and no sightings have been made since. Today there is a tiny remnant population in the western North Pacific of no more than a few hundred individuals (listed by the IUCN as Critically Endangered), and the main population which can be found in the eastern North Pacific where, despite having had their population numbers reduced to a few hundred, the species is thought to have recovered. So, for a Gray whale to appear in the Mediterranean like this it must either have travelled a very long distance (and highly unusual route), or it signals the possible return of the North Atlantic Gray whale from extiction.
After the whale was spotted off the coast of Herzliya Marina, researchers from IMMRAC (Israel Marine Mammal Research & Assistance Centre) in Israel went to investigate on the 9th May, and it was only when they took a look at their photographs back on dry land that the enormity of the situation became clear.
Initially, the sighting seemed an opportunity rather than an anomaly, and certainly not the highly unexpected discovery it turned out to be.
Last Saturday, researchers with the Israel Marine Mammal Research and Assistance Center (IMMRAC) took to the water to study a whale approximately a mile and a half off Herzliya Marina, just north of Tel Aviv. The whale, which was about forty feet long, was generally behaving as a whale does: swimming along the surface, making periodic short dives of between three and five minutes duration, and occasionally showing its tail flukes as it did so.
JERUSALEM—The gray whale, thought to be extinct from the Atlantic Ocean for 200 years, has been sighted off the coast of Israel.
On May 8, the whale was seen off the coast near Herzliya in Tel Aviv by members of a local yacht club traveling in two yachts. After people on one yacht sighted the whale, a second yacht with researchers from the Israel Marine Mammal Research & Assistance Centre (IMMRAC) spotted it as well.
At the time it was thought to be a sighting of a sperm whale, as no gray whale sightings have been made in the region for two centuries. IMMRAC researchers followed the whale for an hour and photographed it.
Scientists: What's killing all the gray whales?
Scientists are planning to cut open and examine a newly dead gray whale found on a local beach in hopes it can provide insight into what's killing so many of the large marine mammals in Puget Sound this year.
"The advantage of this whale is that it is a freshly dead whale," Brian Gorman, spokesman for NOAA Fisheries in Seattle, said Thursday in an interview with KOMO News Radio's Corwin Haeck.
"Frequently whales are a week old or longer before we get a chance to do a necropsy. This one apparently died just last night, and so many of the organs will be in very good condition."
Biologists who examined a gray whale that died after getting stranded on a West Seattle beach say it had a large amount of garbage in its stomach — ranging from a pair of sweat pants to a golf ball.