Since January, more than 70 gray whales have died on the shores of California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska and Canada. This is at most a year since 2000 and scientists are worried.
Last week, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) identified these areas as part of an unusual death event (UME). Under the protection of marine mammals in the US, employing UME means that more resources and scientific expertise are devoted to investigating the causes of the death of many whales.
At this time of year, many gray whales (Eschrichtius robustus) are expected to swim on the west coast. From March to June, these large marine mammals swim north from the coast of Baja California, Mexico, to cold and rich foods that lead to the Bering and Chukchi seas in northern Alaska. They will begin their journey south in November.
Until now, 73 dead whales have been found on the shores of the West Bank this year: 37 in California; three in Oregon; 25 in Washington; three in Alaska; and five in British Columbia, Canada. Most of them are weak and malnourished, suggesting that they might not get enough at the North Pole during the last season to feed someone, said Michael Milstein, director of public affairs at NOAA Fisheries.
The state of dead whales also shows that there are many scientists who do not count as tired whales that tend to sink, said John Kalambokidis, a biological researcher at the Cascadia Research Collective. “So the numbers that are actually washed are part of the actual numbers,” he said. “According to some estimates, this is only 10%.”
This little giant was once very threatened by whale hunters. In 1946, they left only around 2,000 of them when an international agreement began to stop the hunt for gray whales, helping residents, said the Marine Mammal Center, a non-profit organization that saves and rehabilitates marine mammals in California. The gray whale was removed from the list of rare species in the United States in 1994, when the population was estimated at around 20,000.
The initial UME from 1999 to 2000 had destroyed this population, called the East Pacific, to around 16,000 individuals, but the whales had recovered. Scientists estimate that around 27,000 people will live in 2016.
“We know from previous evidence that this population was able to recover from losing at least 6,000,” said David Weller, a wildlife biologist at NOAA’s Southwestern Fisheries Science Center. But it is still unclear why so many whales die. The priority is to study as many animals as possible, “said Weller,” We have a pulse and I would say we want to continue to pay close attention to it. “