A concerning trend has been developing in the San Francisco Bay area, with yet another whale washing up dead on the shores of Ocean Beach on Monday. It’s the ninth gray whale to be found dead in the Bay area this year. An autopsy of the most recent whale found dead concluded that the animal had been killed after striking a ship, as it showed multiple skull fractures and substantial bruising. Experts noted that the whale also showed poor body conditions. Three of the other dead whales were also hit by ships while four died of malnutrition. The cause of death of one remains unknown.
According to Pádraig Duignan, chief research pathologist at the Marine Mammal Center in California, this is a very unusual trend. “A normal year for us, we have maybe between one and three [dead] gray whales in this season,” Duignan told the Washington Post. “This is triple that already, in less than a two-month period.”
Although gray whales are protected by international law and their population is considered stable, the animals appear to be having a difficult time, signaling a potential disruption of their food sources. Much of their feeding takes place in the Arctic, but climate change is complicating this process and may be leaving the whale in need of food earlier than usual, which could explain why the whales venture in the Bay while on their way north and strike ships.