Arts and Entertainment

Gray whales are climate change sentinels at Langley presentation

Dr. Sue Moore sits on an ice float during a research mission in the Arctic Sea.  - Photo courtesy of Orca Network
Dr. Sue Moore sits on an ice float during a research mission in the Arctic Sea.
— image credit: Photo courtesy of Orca Network

Orca Network hosts Dr. Sue Moore of NOAA Fisheries as the featured speaker Saturday, April 20, at 3 p.m. at the Langley United Methodist Church as part of the 10th annual Welcome the Whales festival in Langley.

Whidbey Island residents delight in the annual return of a dozen north Puget Sound gray whales that feed in Saratoga Passage and Possession Sound each spring, but these grays are just a small part of the larger population that migrates up and down the entire Pacific coast each year. 

Orca Network will be the “warm up act,” giving an update on the status of the local gray whales, and showing a few slides from a recent trip to San Ignacio Lagoon in Baja, which is the southern end of the gray whales’ migration where they mate and give birth.

Dr. Moore will then speak about the larger gray whale population, with a focus on the whales’ northern end of their migration, in her presentation titled “Gray Whales as Sentinels of Climate Change,” describing whale responses to recent climate perturbations in North Pacific and Arctic seas.

Moore states that gray whales are delaying their southbound migration, expanding their feeding range along the migration route and northward to Arctic waters, and even remaining in polar waters over winter, all of which indicates that North Pacific and Arctic ecosystems are in transition.

“To use marine mammals as sentinels of ecosystem change, we must expand our existing research strategies,” writes Moore.

Moore is a biological oceanographer with the NOAA Fisheries Office of Science and Technology.

She has 35 years of research experience focused on the ecology, bioacoustics, and natural history of whales and dolphins, with much of her work directed toward cetaceans in the Pacific arctic region.

Moore served as chair of the Environmental Concerns Working Group of the International Whaling Commission Scientific Committee from 2008-2012, and is currently on science steering and advisory committees for the US Marine Mammal Commission, the North Slope Science Initiative, the North Slope Borough Shell Baselines Studies project, and the Arctic Council/CAFF Marine Biodiversity Monitoring Group.

Moore has long held a particular interest in bowhead and gray whale behavioral ecology.

Moore’s presentation follows a day of activities in Langley including educational displays and activities, costume making and face painting, a Critter Parade at 1:30 p.m., and a celebration at the Waterfront/Whale Bell Park which includes a whale blessing by Windwalker Taibi and interactive dancing with Dances of Universal Peace, while watching for Gray whales to swim by.

Welcome the Whales Festival and Parade are sponsored by Orca Network, Homeplace of Oak Harbor and the Langley Chamber of Commerce, with support from Langley Main Street Association.

For more information and the full schedule of events, go to or Welcome the Whales is part of Whidbey’s Earth and Ocean Month. Go to for information on other events taking place around Whidbey during April.


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