A dead gray whale washed ashore at Ocean Beach in San Francisco early Monday, the ninth such whale death recorded so far this year in the Bay Area, according to the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito.
The center’s experts are planning a necropsy, or animal autopsy, on Tuesday to determine the cause of death. The length, age and sex of the whale are not yet known.
Dr. Padraig Duignan, Chief Research Pathologist at the Marine Mammal Center, said:
“The death of nine gray whales in the San Francisco Bay Area this year is a cause for serious concern and reinforces the need to continue to perform and share the results of these type of investigations with key decision-makers.”
“We are committed to partnering with organizations and individuals to find long-term environmental solutions to prevent these deaths in the future.” Biologists have observed gray whales in poor body condition during their annual migration this year, possibly due to shifting food sources. Increased numbers of gray whales have been sighted in the San Francisco Bay as the population continues their northerly migration this spring.
The Center has completed necropsies on eight gray whales this year.
Three of the whales died due to ship strikes and four died of malnutrition, according to the center.
The cause of death for the eighth whale has not yet been determined.
Blunt-force trauma from ship strikes, malnutrition and entanglements are the most common causes of death in whales, according to the Marine Mammal Center’s research team.
Whales and other marine mammals face numerous human-caused threats and solutions must be found to protect healthy and vulnerable species alike, according to officials with the Marine Mammal Center.