Four gray whales were found dead in the San Francisco Bay Area in nine days

San Francisco (AP) —Four gray whales have washed ashore on the beaches of the San Francisco Bay Area in the last nine days. According to experts, one of them was attacked by a ship on Friday. They were trying to determine how the other three died.

“It’s alarming to deal with four gray whale carcasses in just over a week, as we really know the current challenges facing this species,” said the Director of Pathology at the Marine Mammals Center. One Dr. Pádraig Duignan said.

A 41-foot (12.5 meter) adult gray whale carcass landed on March 31 in Crissy Field, San Francisco. A second adult female was found last Saturday at Mos Beach in San Mateo County. One-third was found floating near Berkeley Marina on Wednesday, and the next day one was launched at Muir Beach in Marin County.

Whales travel 10,000 miles (16,090 km) in winter from the waters of Mexico, where they mate and lay calves near the coast of Baja California. They return north, stay off California in the spring and summer, eat anchovy, sardines, and krill, and then continue their journey to the cool, food-rich Arctic Ocean of the Arctic Circle.

In 2019, at least 13 whales were washed ashore in the Bay Area, and scientists said they were afraid that the animals were hungry and could not complete their annual move from Mexico to Alaska. .. Biologists have been observing unwell gray whales on their annual migrations since 2019, when the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration declared an “abnormal death event.”

Malnutrition, entanglement of fishing gear, and trauma from ship strikes have been the most common causes of death discovered by the Center’s research team in recent years.

An autopsy of a whale found at Muir Beach showed significant bruising and bleeding in the muscles around the whale’s jaw and neck vertebrae, consistent with blunt trauma from a ship attack. However, experts pointed out that whales are in good physical condition based on fat layer and internal fat levels, the center said.

Experts have not determined how the other three whales died, or whether hunger was behind their death.

Nearly a quarter of gray whales traveling along the west coast of the United States have died since the last population assessments recorded in 2015 and 2016, according to NOAA.

“This many dead whales in a week are shocking, especially because these animals are just the tip of the iceberg,” said Kristen Monsel, director of legal affairs at the Biodiversity Center’s Marine Program.

Experts estimate that washed-out whales make up only 10% of the death toll, with the rest unnoticed by humans.

Mr Monsel said California legislatures need to demand rope-free fishing gear and federal regulators need to set mandatory speed limits on vessels.

“Ship strikes and fishing gear entanglements kill many whales that we never see,” she said.

Her organization is suing the federal government for speed limits on routes off California, Monsel added.