Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Fifth Grey Whale Found Dead on B.C. Coast, DFO Studying Link with U.S. Deaths

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Fifth Grey Whale Found Dead on B.C. Coast, DFO Studying Link with U.S. Deaths

Article excerpt

Fifth grey whale found dead on B.C. coast

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HAIDA GWAII, B.C. - A fifth grey whale has been found dead on British Columbia's coast in what one research biologist says could be a trend towards of record-setting deaths even as the species does "well" overall.

John Calambokidis of the Cascadia Research Collective based in Olympia, Wash., said Tuesday that 23 grey whales have been found dead this year in his state, and the dead greys are all found along the same migratory route. He said he isn't involved in studying the whales found dead in Canada.

Those deaths bring the total number of carcasses found along the migration route from California to Alaska up to 70, according to figures from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA.

Calambokidis said the last such major mortality event for grey whales was in 1999 and 2000.

"We actually seem to be at a pace that is ahead of even those two years, as in, if we keep getting strandings we'll surpass those years."

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans described the discovery of the fifth dead whale May 16 on Haida Gwaii as part of an "upward trend" from recent years, in an email.

"Fisheries and Oceans Canada is working closely with NOAA to determine if the grey whale deaths in the U.S. are connected," the federal department said in an email.

Three of the whales have been found on Haida Gwaii, one was on Vancouver Island's west coast and another near Victoria. Necropsies are being conducted on all but one that was too decomposed but results are not yet available, the department said.

The department's marine mammal co-ordinator Paul Cottrell was en route Tuesday to Haida Gwaii to study the most recent whale found and a necropsy would be performed with the help of a provincial veterinarian.

Most grey whales in the eastern North Pacific feed in Alaskan waters every year, then fast while they migrate south to Mexico to breed and return, Calambokidis said.

The vast majority of the dead whales that Cascadia Research has studied have been extremely emaciated, he said. …

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