Mysterious Whale Deaths on the Coast of Alaska

bearswhale

Bears feeding on dead whale

Since May, 30 dead whales have been found along the coast of Alaska. This compares to a total of five dead whales reported for all of last year.  According to the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) 11 fin whales, 14 humpback whales, one gray whale, and four unidentified cetaceans have been found stranded on Alaskan beaches. Because so many of the locations are remote, researchers have only been able to examine one whale carcass so far.  There are also reports of an additional six dead whales found along the coast of British Columbia.

As reported in the Huffington Post:

One theory is that a toxic algae bloom, created by warmer-than-usual waters off the West Coast, could be playing a role. 

“That always concerns us because that means there’s probably a change in overall pathogen exposure, possibly harmful algal blooms and other factors,” Rowles said in news conference on Thursday, according to Alaska Dispatch News.

So far, one sample tested negative for a type of toxin produced by algae, but the carcass was so decomposed that it may not be reliable, the Dispatch News reported.

The agency also said in an online FAQ that it’s “highly unlikely” that radiation from Fukushima is playing a role, but that further testing is under way. 

NOAA said it may take months or years before scientists know for sure what’s causing the deaths. 

Thanks to Phil Leon for contributing to this post.

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