4/12/10 Long held as an environmental success story after being taken off the endangered list in 1994, California gray whale sightings dropped from 25 a day in good years to five a day this season. Such anecdotal evidence has left conservationists and state officials worried about the whale's future, especially now that the International Whaling Commission in June will consider allowing 1,400 gray whales to be hunted over the next decade.
The decision will rely on a report that says the population is flourishing — a study critics say is spotty and outdated. The study draws on annual population estimates dating from 1967, but in the past decade only three census counts have been released, the most recent in 2006.
Since then, the estimated number of calves has plunged from more than 1,000 in 2006 to 312 in 2009. In addition, the species suffered a die-off of several thousand whales in 2000.