Two more dead gray whales have been found on Kodiak’s shores, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. NOAA Fisheries confirmed that a total of seven dead whales have now been reported in Alaska so far this year.
In early June NOAA declared an “unusual mortality event,” due to the large number of gray whale deaths, triggering an investigation to determine the cause. The eastern North Pacific gray whale population that migrates from Mexico along the Pacific Coast up to its feeding ground in the Arctic every summer was last estimated at about 27,000.
So far in 2019, more than 150 dead gray whales have been reported in Mexico, Canada and the US. Between 2001-2018, the average number of annual gray whale strandings in the US was roughly 29. The deaths of the two whales recently found in Kodiak brings the US total up to 75, as of June 6. In early June a NOAA official said that many of the dead whales have been “skinny and malnourished,” but a cause of the UME has not yet been determined.
According to information provided by NOAA spokesperson Julie Speegle, NOAA Fisheries received a report of a dead gray whale floating in Portage Bay, Kodiak Island on Wednesday.
“We were able to confirm that report during an aerial survey on June 6,” Speegle wrote in an email to the Kodiak Daily Mirror. “During a second aerial survey on June 7, Alaska Regional Health Specialist and Data Manager Dr. Kate Savage observed that the Portage Bay whale, previously floating, was beached. The team was able to land at the whale carcass in Portage Bay on June 7 and get samples.”
The whale was about 30 feet long and had evidence of killer whale predation. According to Savage, it was in a state of advanced decomposition.
During the Friday aerial survey, Dr. Savage also located another dead gray whale. That whale, a male, was floating on the northern side of Aiaktalik Island, off the eastern coast of Kodiak Island. Savage said that it, too, was in a state of advanced decomposition.
NOAA Fisheries will continue to conduct coastal surveys and respond to reports made to the Alaska Marine Mammal Stranding Hotline (877-925-7773).