Scientists are deeply troubled and puzzled by the sudden deaths of 30 large whales that washed up on the coast of Alaska, calling the incident an “unusual mortality event.”
“While we do not yet know the cause of these strandings, our investigations will give us important information on the health of whales and the ecosystems where they live,” Dr. Teri Rowles, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries’ marine mammal health and stranding response coordinator, said in a statement. “Members of the public can greatly assist the investigation by immediately reporting any sightings of dead whales or distressed live animals they discover.”
The deaths of the whales—which include 11 fin whales, 14 humpback whales, one gray whale, and four unidentified others—are strange: the rate is nearly three times the historical average. NOAA’s declaration of the situation as an “unusual mortality event” will allow the agency to partner with federal, state, and tribal agencies to coordinate a response plan.
Residents are urged to report stranded whales using a special site established by NOAA Fisheries.