DATE: April 24, 2019
SNIP: There have been 31 dead gray whales on the West Coast so far this year. The alarming death toll already marks the third largest gray-whale mortality total on record. Twenty one of those gray whales were in California.
The unusually large number of gray whales are washing up dead on their northbound migration past the Oregon and Washington coasts this year. The peak stranding time for gray whales in the Pacific Northwest is normally April, May and June. But the federal agency NOAA Fisheries has already logged nine dead whales washed ashore in Washington and one in Oregon. That’s on top of 21 strandings on California beaches since the beginning of the year.
There were a total of 25 dead gray whale strandings on the entire West Coast in all of 2018.
Since February, Huggins has participated in necropsies of malnourished, mostly adult, gray whales on Whidbey Island and the Key Peninsula to Ocean Shores and Long Beach, Washington.
“We’re seeing very thin whales with little to no food in their stomachs,” Huggins said in an interview Wednesday. “This is kind of leading us to believe that this is an issue of nutritional stress with a few normal-type strandings mixed in.”
Huggins said these whales probably didn’t get fat enough on their summer feeding grounds in Alaskan waters way back last year.