Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

Ninth Gray Whale in Two Months Washes Up Dead in Bay Area

Animals
A dead gray whale was found beached at San Francisco's Ocean Beach on Tuesday. Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

A gray whale washed up dead on a San Francisco beach Monday morning, CNN reported, making the mammal the ninth to be found dead in the Bay Area this year.


The whale was found on Ocean Beach and reported to the Marine Mammal Center at 6:30 a.m. Monday, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. Scientists at the center will conduct a necropsy Tuesday to determine the cause of death.

"The death of nine gray whales in the San Francisco Bay Area this year is a cause for serious concern and reinforces the need to continue to perform and share the results of these type of investigations with key decision-makers," the center's lead research pathologist Dr. Padraig Duignan said in a statement.

The scientists do not yet know the age, sex or length of the whale found Monday. Eight other gray whales have washed up in the Bay Area in the past two months: three of them died after collisions with ships and four died of malnutrition, the center has concluded so far.

"Their skeleton seems to stick out more and more," Duignan told the told the Los Angeles Times earlier this month of the whales that died of starvation.

Duignan said that the center usually sees only two or three dead gray whales a year. But the problem isn't limited to the Bay Area. More gray whales this year appear to be suffering from malnutrition as they migrate up the Pacific Coast from Mexico to the Arctic. Thirty-one dead whales have been found along the entire Pacific Coast, 21 in all of California. Living whales show signs of poor nutrition, and there are markedly fewer mother and calf pairs, the Los Angeles Times reported.

This year has seen the most dead gray whales for this time of year since 2000, when 86 died. University of California Davis School of Veterinary Medicine research associate Frances Gulland told the Los Angeles Times that the number could rise to 60 or 70 by the end of the migration period.

"If this continues at this pace through May, we would be alarmed," she said.

Scientists don't yet know why the whales appear to be suffering more this year. In addition to the deaths, marine biologist Steven Swartz said 23 percent of the whales he had observed without calves were skinny, more than three times the normal number. However, other species of whale have not been impacted.

Researchers think the gray whales did not get enough to eat while feeding in the Arctic last summer, and NOAA's Alaska Fisheries Science Center plans to study the whales' Arctic feeding habits to better understand what might be happening.

One hypothesis is that the loss of sea ice might have rendered prey more scarce. Another possibility is that a marine heat wave discovered off the Gulf of Alaska in 2013 might have impacted the surrounding ecosystem.

Gray whales were removed from the endangered species list in 1994 after an international agreement to stop hunting the 90,000 pound creatures in 1946 helped their population to recover, CNN explained. There are now around 27,000 gray whales in the world, so this year's deaths do not threaten the species on a population level. But Duignan told the Los Angeles Times that it's important to understand any changes with the whales. "We are concerned because whales are an indicator species for the health of the ocean," he said. "We use them to tell us what's happening out there."

Washington state biologist John Calambokidis agreed.

"It's not like we're ringing the alarm bell that this population is threatened or at risk," he said. "As a researcher, I feel that you want to at least understand what is going on."

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

These seven cookbooks by Black chefs have inspired the author's family. LightFieldStudios / Getty Images

By Zahida Sherman

Cooking has always intimidated me. As a child, I would anxiously peer into the kitchen as my mother prepared Christmas dinner for our family.

Read More Show Less
Hand sanitizer is offered to students during summer school sessions at Happy Day School in Monterey Park, California on July 9, 2020. FREDERIC J. BROWN / AFP via Getty Images

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has expanded its list of potentially toxic hand sanitizers to avoid because they could be contaminated with methanol.

Read More Show Less
Over the next couple of weeks, crews will fully remove the 125-foot-wide, 25-foot-tall dam, allowing the Middle Fork Nooksack to run free for the first time in 60 years. Ctyonahl / Wikimedia Commons / CC by 3.0

By Tara Lohan

The conclusion to decades of work to remove a dam on the Middle Fork Nooksack River east of Bellingham, Washington began with a bang yesterday as crews breached the dam with a carefully planned detonation. This explosive denouement is also a beginning.

Read More Show Less
A man observes a flooded stretch of Dock Street in Annapolis, Maryland on Jan. 25, 2010. Matt Rath / Chesapeake Bay Program

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said Tuesday that a trend of increased coastal flooding will continue to worsen as the climate crisis escalates.

Read More Show Less
A new tool called The Food Systems Dashboard aims to save decision makers time and energy by painting a complete picture of a country's food system. Photo courtesy of Dr. Jessica Fanzo and Dr. Rebecca McLaren

By Katie Howell

A new tool called The Food Systems Dashboard aims to save decision makers time and energy by painting a complete picture of a country's food system. Created by the Johns Hopkins' Alliance for a Healthier World, the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), and the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the Dashboard compiles food systems data from over 35 sources and offers it as a public good.

Read More Show Less
White's seahorse, also called the Sydney seahorse, is native to the Pacific waters off Australia's east coast. Sylke Rohrlach / Wikimedia Commons / CC by 2.0

By Manuela Callari

It can grow to a maximum of six inches (16 centimeters), change color depending on mood and habitat, and, like all seahorses, the White's seahorse male gestates its young. But this tiny snouted fish is under threat.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Democratic Presidential candidate Joe Biden speaks at a "Build Back Better" Clean Energy event on July 14, 2020 at the Chase Center in Wilmington, Delaware. Joe Biden / Facebook

Presidential hopeful Joe Biden announced a $2 trillion plan Tuesday to boost American investment in clean energy and infrastructure.

Read More Show Less