10 dead whales have washed up in California since March, and scientists are trying to figure out why

There are higher numbers of gray whales in the area than expected.

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There are higher numbers of gray whales in the area than expected.
source
Justin Sullivan / Getty

  • 10 dead gray whales have washed up in the San Francisco Bay area since March.
  • The San Francisco Chronicle reported that authorities are still trying to figure out whether they can reach the whale to determine how it died.
  • Out of the nine other whales examined, one was too decomposed to determine the cause of death, four died from malnutrition, and the other four were fatally struck by ships.
  • The Marine Mammal Center posted a statement saying there has been an increase in the number of gray whales being seen in the San Francisco Bay area, but ocean conditions and food sources have been affected by climate change.
  • Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more stories.

10 dead whales have washed up on California’s Bay Area shores since March. The San Francisco Chronicle reported that the tenth whale carcass was found near Linda Mar Beach in Pacifica on Tuesday morning.

According to the Chronicle, Giancarlo Rulli, the spokesperson for The Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, said authorities were still trying to figure out whether they could reach the whale and perform a necropsy to see how it died.

“The whale needs to dislodge at high tide, or if the low tide goes out far enough, they could try to do a preliminary look at the animal,” he said.

Just a few days ago, the ninth whale to wash up dead was found on the same beach. Experiments found that one whale was too decomposed to determine the cause of death, four died from malnutrition, and the other four were fatally struck by ships.

In a statement, The Marine Mammal Center said there has been an increase in the number of gray whales being seen in the San Francisco Bay area, because they migrate back to their feeding grounds in Alaska during the Spring – one of the longest migrations of any whale on Earth. While one or two whales normally pass underneath the Golden Gate Bridge, this year they have counted as many as five.

“Biologists have observed gray whales in poor body condition during their annual migration this year,” the statement said. “Potentially due to anomalous oceanographic conditions over the past few years that have impacted their food source.”

Mother whales are particularly at risk, the Center said, because they have low body reserves.

“By investigating deaths like this, we are able to identify and respond to rapidly changing environmental trends that are impacting marine mammal populations,” said Padraig Duignan, the chief research pathologist at the Center.

“These animals are representative of a growing issue for migrating gray whales who appear unable to sustain themselves due to shifting food source availability.”

10 gray whales have washed up in the last two months.

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10 gray whales have washed up in the last two months.
source
Justin Sullivan / Getty

The San Francisco Chronicle reported that in total, 48 gray whales have been found dead on the coasts of California, Oregon, Washington, and Alaska.

The Marine Mammal Center said it’s critical for scientists to determine why these animals are dying to help protect them from issues they already face, like rising water temperatures and shifting food sources.

Read more: A whale washed up dead in the Philippines with almost 100 pounds worth of trash in its stomach, including plastic shopping bags and rice sacks

Whales also face the threat of trash in the oceans. In March, a curvier’s beaked whale washed up dead in the Philippines with 40 kg (88 pounds) of trash in its stomach. Scientists determined that there was so much plastic in its system that it couldn’t get nourishment from food, and so it died from dehydration and starvation.

“This whale had the most plastic we have ever seen in a whale,” the D’Bone Collector Museum, an NGO that retrieves dead animals and preserves them, said in a Facebook post. “It’s disgusting. Action must be taken by the government against those who continue to treat the waterways and ocean as dumpsters.”

At the time, Darrell Blatchley, the founder of the museum, told INSIDER that out of the 61 dead whales they examined over the last 10 years, 57 died due to fishing nets, dynamite fishing, and plastic garbage, and four of them were pregnant.