Gray whale migration along Oregon is primarily coastal. The average distance from shore for sightings recorded during aerial surveys off the Oregon coast was 9.2 km and the farthest sighting occurred 23 km offshore (Green et al. 1995). Because of their coastal path, gray whales are well known and appreciated by the public and by visitors to the Oregon coast. Whale-watching is one of the main attractions offered by tour boat operators in Depoe Bay and Newport. Whale-watching is also an important attraction at visitor centers along the Oregon coast (e.g. Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area, Whale Watching Center in Depoe Bay, etc.). However, the coastal migratory path of gray whales crosses areas where wave energy parks have been proposed.
The objective of this study is to generate accurate, up to date data on distribution (distance to shore, travel path) and behavior (travel speed, migration timing) of gray whales migrating along the central Oregon coast. Results from this study will help estimate potential exposure of migrating gray whales to wave energy facilities in the Oregon territorial sea. Moreover, the baseline information reported here, combined with further observations to monitor gray whale behavior after wave energy facilities are installed, can be used to determine potential effects and to evaluate the need for and effectiveness of mitigation measures.