In 2003, the International Whaling Commission (IWC) established an indigenous hunting limit of 620 gray whales over five years, with no more than 140 individuals to be taken in a single year. In 2005, the IWC estimated that 400 individuals could be sustainably taken in any one year. Additionally, the major breeding lagoons of the eastern Pacific population are protected by their inclusion in the El Vizcaino Biosphere Reserve, limiting disturbances from boating, fishing, and coastal development.
The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada designated the eastern north Pacific gray whale as a species of "Special Concern". After international protection from commercial whaling, gray whale populations experienced a 2.5% annual growth increase until 1998, when the population peaked at around 27,000 individuals. Over the following four years, however, the population declined by more than a third, possibly due to a lack of food in their summer feeding grounds. Since 2002, the eastern north Pacific gray whale population has steadily increased. The United States Fish and Wildlife Service lists the western north Pacific gray whale population as "endangered" and indicates that the eastern north Pacific stock was delisted in 1994. When the western and eastern Pacific populations are considered a single population, the IUCN considers them as a species of "Least Concern". However, the western Pacific population is separately listed as “critically endangered”.
US Federal List: endangered
CITES: appendix i
State of Michigan List: no special status
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: critically endangered