VANCOUVER — The American federal agency dedicated to ocean science has declared an “unusual mortality event” as the bodies of dozens of grey whales wash up on West Coast beaches in Canada and the U.S.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, known as NOAA, says that 70 whales have been found on U.S. territory from California to Alaska and five more have washed up on British Columbia’s coast.
John Calambokidis, a research biologist with the Cascadia Research Collective, says it is early in the migration and the whales found dead represent a fraction of that number that actually die in the ocean.
This year’s figures are the highest since 2000, when the bodies of more than 100 whales were found.
— CBC Canadian News (@CBCCanada) May 28, 2019
— CNN (@CNN) May 7, 2019
58 gray whales have washed up dead from California to Alaska this year.
Most were malnourished.
Scientists say warming oceans and record drops in sea ice near Alaska, where they build up most of their fat, is affecting their entire food web. pic.twitter.com/dfm24gRO4g
— AJ+ (@ajplus) May 20, 2019
The declaration of the event triggers a scientific investigation into the whales who migrate annually between the waters off Alaska and Mexico.
The whales population was severely reduced because of commercial whaling, but it now numbers around 27,000, although they are still listed as a special concern under Canada’s Species At Risk Act.