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Gray Whale - Estrichtius robustus
Photo by Howard Hall Productions

The gray whale is the only large whale that spends most of its life in coastal waters. The gray whale is well known for its long annual migration from feeding grounds to calving and breeding grounds, approximatley 12,000 miles round trip. Because of its habit of staying relatively close to shore and this long migration, it is one of the most watched whales by humans. Recognized by their mottled gray color and lack of a dorsal fin, these whales can be seen spy-hopping, and even breaching while they migrate through Channel Islands and Monterey National Marine Sanctuaries.

Gray Whale
(Estrichtius robustus)

Found on the Siberian and Alaskan coasts during the summer months and off the coast of Baja California during the winter months.

Primarily coastal inshore

Crustaceans, squid, benthic molluscs, and worms


The status of this species is representative of the populations within the waters of this Sanctuary only, not global populations.

Quick Fact
The gray whale is the only baleen whale that feeds on the sea floor where they find bottom dwelling crustaceans, molluscs, and worms.

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