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A dozen dead whales stranded in the Bay Area

The number of dead whales stranding ashore in the San Francisco Bay Area this spring continues to rise, with another massive gray whale seen rolling in the waves at Pacifica State Beach on Friday afternoon.

The last – an adult male 47 feet long – is the 10th gray whose carcass has found its way to the shores of the Bay Area. A pygmy sperm whale and a fin whale were also found fatally stranded.

A cause of death has not been determined and an autopsy has not been performed, although tissue samples from the whale have been collected for further study by the California Academy of Sciences. The carcass will be towed to the sea.

Collisions with ships and malnutrition have been noted in the deaths of some of the other whales in the area.

Although the number of grays to die this year has been high, Michael Milstein, a spokesperson for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said the past few years have also been unusual.

He said 13 gray whales have died this year in California so far. Last year, 18 had died at the end of May. In 2019, the death toll was 34.

In 2019, NOAA began to seriously investigate the deaths, declaring the deaths an “unusual mortality event”.

So far this year, 70 gray whales have stranded on the beaches and coasts of Mexico, the United States and Canada, Milstein said. In 2019, that number was 214 and in 2020, 174.

The population is still considered to be in good health. In 2016, scientists estimated that approximately 26,000 whales lived off the western edge of North America; they now set that number at over 20,000.

Most gray whales migrate each year from coves on the Baja Peninsula in Mexico to arctic feeding grounds in the Bering and Chukchi Seas. It is the longest migration among mammals, with a round trip distance of 12,000 miles.

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