Four dead gray whales washed ashore on the beaches of San Francisco Bay in nine days. Experts announced that two of the giant aquatic mammals have died from ship attacks and the other two are under investigation on Saturday.
Biologists from the nonprofit Marine Mammal Center in California said in a press release Saturday that two dead whales washed ashore in the Bay Area on Thursday, joining two more whales discovered dead on the area’s beaches since March 31 were.
Of the four animals, two died of blunt violent trauma from ship attacks, the center said.
“It is alarming to be responding to four dead gray whales in just over a week as it really puts the current challenges facing these species into perspective,” said Padraig Duignan, director of pathology at the center, in a press release.
Other common causes of gray whale death include starvation and complications from entanglement in deep-sea fishing nets and other equipment, the center said.
Biologists from the California Academy of Sciences came to the center’s experts to perform the autopsies.
Climate change can affect water temperatures, which affects the availability of food for the whales. These can grow up to 50 feet long and migrate approximately 10,000 miles each year between foraging areas in the cold waters of the North Pacific and breeding areas in warm water lagoons on Mexico’s Baja California peninsula.
The species is not currently considered endangered, but is protected by the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Fisheries Department keeps track of whale populations. The last published study in 2016 found a population of 27,000 gray whales. Data from a 2020 study is still being analyzed, according to the NOAA website.
Reporting from Rich McKay in Atlanta; Adaptation by Andrea Ricci