Something tragic has happened in Alaska that had experts from the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration on their toes. The NOAA has identified a killing of 30 whales in the western Gulf and described this as “an unusual mortality event”. The agency immediately declared that it is going to conduct an in-depth investigation to properly establish what or who killed these whales.
This does not seem to be the only case that the NOAA has had to deal with. It declared that the whale strandings in the western Gulf of Alaska have seen a 300 percent increase in the last years. While the institution believes that this is an unusual mortality even, not all of its employees share the same view. Julie Speegle, who works as a NOAA spokeswoman, believes the deaths are being cause by toxins in the area.
The algal bloom might be the source of it all, since it is constantly releasing harmful, and maybe deadly toxins in the area, but there has been no indicator so far that could link the two and deem toxins as the culprit. There might be something more that NOAA is not yet aware of.
While the NOAA is planning on identifying what the exact reason is, Teri Rowles, the coordinator of the marine mammal health and stranding response, explains that the investigation is not as easy as it sounds. The whale carcasses are very difficult to access. Firstly, because they are barely ever beached; secondly, because bears feed on these carcasses and research teams would not exactly be safe around them.
As far as rumors indicate, there have been samples collected, but only from one whale carcass. That is quite far from reaching a stable conclusion. Rowles also mentioned that if carcasses continue to be difficult to get close to, researchers have no other option than to study historical and environmental factors that could have led to the whales’ demise, but this approach offers far less information that the actual whale approach.
This unusual even has been persisting ever since May 2015. There have been numerous whales beached among which we can find fin whales, humpback whales or grey whales. Some other marine animals which have yet to be identified have been found as well, all in the same region: western Gulf of Alaska. Perhaps, in time, researchers will find the appropriate conditions to carry out their investigation.
Photo Credits ktuu.com