NOAA is declaring the recent deaths of 30 large whales in the western Gulf of Alaska an “unusual mortality event,” triggering a focused, expert investigation into the cause. An unusual mortality event is a stranding event that is unexpected, involves a significant die-off of a marine mammal population, and demands immediate response.
Since May 2015, 11 fin whales, 14 humpback whales, one gray whale, and four unidentified cetaceans have stranded around the islands of the western Gulf of Alaska and the southern shoreline of the Alaska Peninsula. To date, this brings the large whale strandings for this region to almost three times the historical average.
"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,” said Dr. Teri Rowles, NOAA Fisheries' marine mammal health and stranding response coordinator.