The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
Ninth Gray Whale in Two Months Washes Up Dead in Bay Area
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.
1/2: The Marine Mammal Center confirms a dead gray whale washed ashore early this morning at Ocean Beach in San Francisco. Our scientists & partners plan to perform a necropsy, or animal autopsy, tomorrow in an attempt to determine the cause of death. 📸 Credit Sarah Maria Curran pic.twitter.com/6sDhSnhz8H— The Marine Mammal Center (@TMMC) May 6, 2019
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."
- Whales are dying in California ship collisions - The Washington Post ›
- Dead and dying dolphins are washing up on California shores ... ›
- Massive great white shark eating dead whale off Southern California ... ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
‘Companies Should Not Be Allowed to Use Hazardous Ingredients in Products People Use’: Michelle Pfeiffer Speaks Up for Safer Cosmetics
The beauty products we put on our skin can have important consequences for our health. Just this March, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned that some Claire's cosmetics had tested positive for asbestos. But the FDA could only issue a warning, not a recall, because current law does not empower the agency to do so.
Michelle Pfeiffer wants to change that.
The actress and Environmental Working Group (EWG) board member was spotted on Capitol Hill Thursday lobbying lawmakers on behalf of a bill that would increase oversight of the cosmetics industry, The Washington Post reported.
By Julia Conley
Scientists at the United Nations' intergovernmental body focusing on biodiversity sounded alarms earlier this month with its report on the looming potential extinction of one million species — but few heard their calls, according to a German newspaper report.
The climate crisis is a major concern for American voters with nearly 40 percent reporting the issue will help determine how they cast their ballots in the upcoming 2020 presidential election, according to a report compiled by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication.
Of more than 1,000 registered voters surveyed on global warming, climate and energy policies, as well as personal and collective action, 38 percent said that a candidate's position on climate change is "very important" when it comes to determining who will win their vote. Overall, democratic candidates are under more pressure to provide green solutions as part of their campaign promises with 64 percent of Democrat voters saying they prioritize the issue compared with just 34 percent of Independents and 12 percent of Republicans.
President Donald Trump has agreed to sign a $19.1 billion disaster relief bill that will help Americans still recovering from the flooding, hurricanes and wildfires that have devastated parts of the country in the past two years. Senate Republicans said they struck a deal with the president to approve the measure, despite the fact that it did not include the funding he wanted for the U.S.-Mexican border, CNN reported.
"The U.S. Senate has just approved a 19 Billion Dollar Disaster Relief Bill, with my total approval. Great!" the president tweeted Thursday.
"There was a lot of devastation throughout the state," Governor Mike Parson said at a Thursday morning press conference, as NPR reported. "We were very fortunate last night that we didn't have more injuries than what we had, and we didn't have more fatalities across the state. But three is too many."