Why are so many whales washing up in the San Francisco Bay Area? Experts investigate after NINTH gray whale since March is found dead on the beach
- Whale found Monday on Ocean Beach was the 9th found in the area since March
- Researchers with Marine Mammal Center say it was likely struck by a ship
- Biologists have spotted gray whales in bad condition during this year’s migration
Marine mammal experts are concerned about the death of a gray whale that washed ashore in San Francisco.
The whale found Monday on Ocean Beach was the ninth discovered in the San Francisco Bay Area since March.
A necropsy conducted by the Marine Mammal Center indicates it may have been struck by a ship.
This, unfortunately, is not uncommon; the center says three previous whales were struck by ships, while another died from malnutrition. The cause of death for another hasn’t been determined.
But the center says biologists have spotted gray whales in poor condition during this year’s annual migration from Mexico to Alaska.
Marine mammal experts are concerned about the death of a gray whale that washed ashore in San Francisco. The whale found Monday on Ocean Beach was the ninth discovered in the San Francisco Bay Area since March
They suspect some are having trouble finding enough to eat as warming ocean conditions cause changes to their food supplies, which can range from krill and small shrimp-like animals to small fish.
The latest was found lying on its stomach, which researchers say makes it more difficult to perform their tests.
‘Normally when a whale floats in, it ends up on its back,’ Dr. Padraig Duignan, the Marine Mammal Center’s chief pathologist, told ABC7.
‘It gives us easy access to the abdominal cavity.’
‘Back of the head, back of the thorax, consistent with blunt trauma from something big like a ship,’ the researcher added.
The Marine Mammal Center confirmed the gruesome discovery after sightings were reported Monday morning and completed their necropsy on Tuesday.
While an average of five to 10 gray whales typically wash ashore over the course of an entire calendar year, that number has now been reached in a matter of weeks.
‘We are committed to performing these investigations w/our partners to find long-term solutions to prevent these incidents in the future,’ the center said on Twitter, noting it has already performed 8 gray whale necropsies this year.
WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT CALIFORNIA GREY WHALES?
A grey whale breaches the water’s surface in a lagoon on the coast of Mexico
These marine mammals can grow up to 50 feet (15 metres) in length.
Typically they weigh around 70,000 lbs (32,000 kg).
They are commonly spotted surfacing to breathe through their blowholes.
Grey whales eat by filtering food out of the water close to the sea floor.
The backs of grey whales are often covered with parasitic creatures like barnacles, making them look like crusty rocks.
Grey whales are among the world’s greatest migrators, journeying annually from Alaskan waters to the warmer Mexican coast every winter.
While once a target of extensive hunting in the early 20th century that brought them close to extinction, they have since been removed from the US endangered species list following legal protections that have allowed their populations to recover
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