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LA Times: Starvation Has Decimated Gray Whales - Can the Giants Ever Recover?

March 27, 2024
  • Malnutrition
  • Species conservation
  • Pathology
  • Climate change
  • Population monitoring

Starvation has decimated gray whales off the Pacific Coast. Can the giants ever recover?

Published in the Los Angeles Times: March 27, 2024

When large numbers of gray whales began washing up along North America’s Pacific Coast nearly six years ago, marine scientists could only speculate at the reason: Was it disease? Ocean pollution? Increasing ship collisions?

Many of the doomed cetaceans looked skinny or emaciated, while others looked torn up by orcas. Some had clearly died after being struck by a ship, or getting entangled in fishing gear. Still others provided no discernible clues.

Now — after more than 700 gray whales have washed ashore in Mexico, Canada, California and other U.S. states since late 2018 — new research published Tuesday in PLOS One suggests the culprit was a critical drop in food availability in the mammals’ Arctic and sub-Arctic seafloor feeding grounds.

What remains unclear however is whether this malnutrition was caused by a change in the ocean, or the whales themselves.

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species conservation
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population monitoring
Pádraig Duignan
Gray Whale