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Three more dead gray whales wash up around Bay in course of one week

Scientists with the Marine Mammal Center have responded to three more dead gray whales reported in San Francisco Bay recently, center officials said Friday.

The three whales washed ashore between April 27 and May 4 in Tiburon, the Port of Oakland and at Angel Island State Park.

Since early last month, the Marin Headlands-based center and partners such as the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park have investigated the deaths of four other gray whales and one fin whale all found in the Bay Area, with three of those determined to have died due to a ship strike.

The most recent whales won’t have their causes of death determined because of inaccessible or unsafe locations, and the Marine Mammal Center is in talks with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration about possibly safely towing the whale carcasses into the open ocean so they can naturally decompose there.

A dead gray whale is pictured in the surf line at Angel Island State Park on May 4, 2021. As an essential nonprofit organization operating during the ongoing pandemic, The Marine Mammal Center and its partners are currently deploying response teams with fewer personnel for shorter durations and with increased personal protective equipment to safely continue this important work.
Courtesy of The Marine Mammal Center

Kathi George, the center’s director of field operations and response, said in a statement:

“Over the last few years, our experts have observed gray whales frequenting San Francisco Bay in greater numbers and for longer periods of time. These whales are at increased risk from human activity, which is why we are committed to better understanding the ongoing challenges and threats these animals face.”

Increased strandings of gray whales since early 2019 along their entire migratory range prompted the NOAA to declare an Unusual Mortality Event that remains ongoing for the species. Malnutrition, entanglement and ship strikes have been the most common causes of death in whales studied locally in the Bay Area.

Marine Mammal Center researchers have seen increased numbers of the whales in the Bay this spring as they continue their migration north to food-rich Arctic waters and are urging boaters and anyone else on the water to keep a safe distance from the whales and to report any sightings to (415) 289-7325.

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