Searching for Gigi: Captivity, Culture, and the Pacific Coast’s Embrace of Gray Whales


Jason Colby explores the role of one female gray whale in shaping human perceptions of her species and their status in the wild. By the late 1800s, gray whales had been hunted almost to extinction. Nearly a century later, the captivity of Gigi at Sea World (San Diego) facilitated the first scientific research and public viewings of live gray whales. Her subsequent release spurred whale-watching excursions, as researchers began reporting changes in the behavior of Gigi’s wild companions, who now welcomed human contact. These events played a crucial part in the passing of the Marine Mammal Protection Act in 1972 and saw the end of US commercial whaling.