'Lack of Food' And 'Ship Strikes' Cause Death Of 9 Gray Whales In Just 2 Months And Scientists Are Concerned

'Lack of Food' And 'Ship Strikes' Cause Death Of 9 Gray Whales In Just 2 Months And Scientists Are Concerned

Necropsies indicate that most of these whales dying off the California coast were victims of malnutrition.

This Monday reportedly marked the ninth death of a gray whale in the San Francisco Bay Area within two months. The huge corpse discovered on Ocean Beach is a "serious" cause for concern, informed a local scientist. According to HuffingtonPost, the deaths have been recorded since March, out of which three were unfortunately killed due to a collision with ships, and the others were the victims of malnutrition, according to the necropsies. The female gray whale's demise has said to be caused due to a 'ship strike' yet again.



The chief research pathologist of the Marine Mammal Center, Sausalito, Dr. Padraig Duignan made a statement. "The death of nine gray whales … is a cause for serious concern and reinforces the need to continue to perform and share the results of these types of investigations with key decision-makers," he said. "We are committed to partnering with organizations and individuals to find long-term environmental solutions to prevent these deaths in the future."



After confirming the cause of death for the three whales which suffered a blunt force trauma, Dr. Duignan didn't hesitate to share his concern.  "We’re incredibly concerned to discover the death of three gray whales due to ship strikes in two weeks," he said. "Investigating each death is critical so that decision-makers can advise on shipping speeds in areas where whales are known to travel," he continued. 



Every year several gray whales migrate towards this area from the Baja California, north to Alaska and beyond. But this time there were more of them than usual and climate change is likely to be the cause. Most of these whales have been discovered to be underweight which is likely to be due to their change in the food habitat. A stark number of 31 whales have died since January along the entire West Coast. The figure seems to be higher than it usually is at this time of the year and it hasn't been so since 2000, as 86 whales have died.



Scientists have also found that dozens of other whales show alarming signs of malnutrition, and the number of mother-calf pairs has gone down crucially. A research associate at the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of California in Davis, Frances Gulland, has estimated that the number of dead gray whales by the end of this season could easily hit 60 or 70. "If this continues at this pace through May, we would be alarmed," she added.



Experts are unable to comprehend the reason behind their untimely deaths reports The Seattle Times. Most of these whales didn't even reach adulthood before their untimely demise. It is assumed that they had died due to starvation. After performing necropsies on the four other whales Duignan said, "Their skeleton seems to stick out more and more." This is a serious concern as more and more whales appear emancipated. 



Also, Steven Swartz, a marine scientist who studies the gray whales residing in San Ignacio Lagoon in Baja California, observed about 23 percent of the whales to be skinnier than usual and without their calves. His team has deemed this percentage to be three times higher than usual. While the usual count of these mother-calf pairs is 75, this year it has reduced to 40 but none of them were noticeably skinny, adding to the mystery.



These whale experts speculate the reason behind their malnutrition could be because they didn't consume the required number of calories needed during their migration from the North Pacific and Arctic last summer. Greenman adds, "Whether it’s not enough prey, too many whales, issues with the habitat — that is what we are currently investigating." It's too soon for them to put a finger on the exact cause and what's all the more puzzling is the fact that the other species of whales show no such signs.


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