The number of dead whales coming ashore in the San Francisco Bay Area this spring continues to rise, with another large gray whale seen sliding in the surf on Friday afternoon at Pacifica State Beach.
The newest gray, a 47-foot-long adult male, is the tenth whose corpse has washed up on Bay Area beaches. A pygmy sperm whale and a fin whale were also discovered dead on the shore.
The cause of death has not been confirmed, and no necropsy was done, however, the California Academy of Sciences has gathered tissue samples from the whale for future investigation. The body will be hauled out to sea.
Ship hits and hunger have been linked to the deaths of some of the area’s other whales.
Despite the fact that the number of grays that have died this year has been significant, Michael Milstein, a spokesperson for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said that the prior few years have also been uncommon.
So far this year, 13 gray whales have perished in California, according to him. Last year, by the end of May, 18 people had died. The death toll in 2019 was 34.
NOAA conducted a thorough investigation into the fatalities in 2019, designating the fatalities an “unusual mortality event.”
So far this year, 70 gray whales have washed up on the shores and shores of Mexico, the United States, and Canada, according to Milstein. In 2019, that figure was 214; in 2020, it was 174.
The populace is still regarded as healthy. Scientists estimated around 26,000 whales living off the western coast of North America in 2016, but that figure has now been reduced to closer to 20,000.
The majority of gray whales migrate yearly from Mexico’s Baja Peninsula inlets to Arctic feeding areas in the Bering and Chukchi seas. With a round-trip distance of 12,000 miles, it is the largest migration among mammals.
Why this phenomenon keeps happening?
According to studies, noise pollution, such as sonar and seismic survey sound pulses, interferes with whales’ ability to communicate and navigate, and may drive them onshore by deafening, confusing, or scaring them.
Deepwater animals, such as beaked whales, are extremely vulnerable to sonar, even at great distances. The sequence of beaked whale strandings on Guam, for example, is assumed to be linked to naval sonar activities.
Whales are probably the most acoustically sophisticated creatures on the planet. Because sound travels quicker through water than air and retains its intensity for a longer period of time, the noises may injure their hearing.
Every time a whale attempts to dive, it is unable to equalize the pressure.
Because it is unable to dive, the whale is unable to hunt and hence becomes starved and dehydrated, since it obtains water from its food. Weakened, it will float with the stream until it reaches the beach.
When a whale strands, it’s a race against the clock. A whale’s enormous weight will crush it on land if it is not supported by water.
Toxins accumulate as a result of the restricted circulation, poisoning the animal. A whale’s thick blubber may also cause it to overheat while it is not in the water.
Whales, like other animals, breathe air, thus if water enters their blowhole at high tide, they may die.
If you come across a beached whale, do not try to move it. Dragging the animal back into the water is a totally inappropriate course of action, according to experts, since it may damage their delicate tail flukes and be lethal if the animal requires veterinarian attention before being released.
Instead, while you wait for qualified volunteers and veterinarians, marine charities, the coast guard, or emergency services may assist. To avoid sunburn, keep the animal upright, damp (avoid getting water in its blowhole), and covered.
Nonetheless, survival rates remain poor. Rescuers will only attempt to refloat an animal if it is healthy enough to do so.
The only two alternatives are to keep the animal in captivity (in nations where it is legal) or to euthanize it. While this is a heartbreaking choice, many believe it is better for the animal’s wellbeing than putting a wild animal in captivity.