Since May 2015, 14 fin whales, 11 humpback whales, one gray whale and four unidentified specimens have been found dead along shorelines in the Gulf of Alaska, nearly half of them in the Kodiak Archipelago. Other dead whales have been reported off the coast of British Columbia, including four humpbacks and one sperm whale.
This year’s total is roughly three times the annual average for the region, leading the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to declare the deaths an “unusual mortality event.” The investigation into the deaths will take months, or even years, according to a statement released by the agency.
Predation, starvation, or disease could be behind the deaths, but researchers say there have been few signs of physical trauma to the whales. The more likely culprit is unusual water conditions.