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New insights into the northward migration route of gray whales between Vancouver Island, British Columbia, and southeastern Alaska




The route taken by northward migrating gray whales during spring between Vancouver Island and southeastern Alaska, a distance of about 575 km, has long been uncertain. It is generally believed that the whales closely follow the western, outer coastline of Haida Gwaii (formerly the Queen Charlotte Islands), an archipelago lying between Vancouver Island and southeastern Alaska, consistent with their pattern of migrating close to shore over the majority of their northward migratory corridor. By tracking satellite-tagged individuals and surveying whales from shore bases, we provide evidence that this is not the primary migratory corridor, but instead that most whales migrate through Hecate Strait and Dixon Entrance, broad waterways that lie to the east and north of Haida Gwaii. By using this route, northbound gray whales potentially face a wider range of industrial activities and developments than they would by migrating along the outer coast.