California sees a spike in gray whale deaths

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A team from The Marine Mammal Center completes a necropsy on a gray whale stranded at Angel Island State Park, California. Photo credit: Cara Field

Emaciated grey whales continue to wash up on California beaches at alarming rates. Gray whale populations have rebounded in recent decades following near extinction from hunting, but some scientists say that might be affecting the amount of food available in the Arctic, where the whales feed before migrating south to have their calves in the warmer waters of Mexico.

Dave Weller looks for gray whales during a NOAA research survey in the Gulf of Alaska. Photo credit: Sergio Martinez

Additionally, the rapid reduction of polar sea ice in the Arctic may also be disturbing the whales’ natural feeding habitat and scientists are working collaboratively to follow those changes and their potential impacts on the species.

Some stranded whales also show signs of being been struck by cargo ships and some scientists say that there may be a crossover event happening as weakened whales become slower to react to approaching ships.

Gray whales travel one of the longest migratory patterns of mammals on earth. Photo credit: NOAA Fisheries
Credits

Guest:
Dave Weller - Research Wildlife Biologist, NOAA Fisheries

Host:
Jonathan Bastian

Producer:
Carolina Starin