KMXT, Jun 19, 2015 (emphasis added): At least 10 Fin whales are dead, having fallen victim to a mysterious affliction that seems to have killed them all near Kodiak Island.
Washington Post, Jun 19, 2015: Endangered whales are dying off in Alaska… at least nine fin whales have been found dead in the water in recent weeks… What’s more troubling is that the cause remains unknown, meaning that more of the whales could be at risk of meeting the same fate… Researchers are also investigating the death of some 25 walruses and an unusual number of seabirds… It’s not clear if the unexpected deaths are related.
Univ. of Alaska, Fairbanks, Jun 18, 2015: On May 23, [NOAA learned] that crew members on the Alaska Marine Highway System’s ferry MV Kennicott had photographed dead whales. During the next two weeks, boaters, fishermen and pilots reported floating dead whales in the area… The dead whales are now drifting along both sides of Kodiak Island… Fin whales, an endangered species, grow to 70 feet long.
AP, Jun 18, 2015: [M]arine mammal specialists speculate the animals might have eaten something toxic. UAF marine mammal specialist Kate Wynne said in a news release that it’s rare to see even one fin whale carcass every couple of years. A dead humpback whale also was found, but in a different location.
Alaska Dispatch News, Jun 18, 2015: At least nine fin whales have been found dead in recent weeks… About 25 walrus carcasses were found… an unexpected occurrence in an area where walrus tramplings are rare… In the same general area, carcasses of hundreds of seabirds and a dead whale were also found.
Reuters, Jun 19, 2015: The number of dead whales reported since late May has vexed researchers… the fin whale is the second largest mammal in the world… [NOAA is] looking for more carcasses… The whales had no signs of injuries.
Kodiak Daily Mirror, Jun 19, 2015: At least nine fin whales have been found floating dead… the exact numbers are still unknown… Daily Mirror columnist Zoya Saltonstall also photographed a dead fin whale at the mouth of Afognak Bay around the last week of May. She said she was told that a “very young fin whale calf” was also found dead, floating nearby. “There were long black and white stripes along the whale’s body and it was bloated and swollen,” she said.
- Prof. Kate Wynne, Univ. of Alaska marine mammal specialist: “It is an unusual and mysterious event… We rarely see more than one fin whale carcass every couple of years… It is really perplexing… They appear to have all died around the same time… We are asking people to watch for, report and photograph dead birds, fish or anything that seems unusual… So far there is no ‘smoking gun’ in this environmental mystery.”
- Wynne: “The fact that the carcass are intact, it rules out killer whale predation — but other than that, we’re at a loss… It suggests that there’s something, maybe a feeding group of fin whales ran into a toxin or bio-toxin.”
- Wynne: “It is hard to trace a source when dealing only with evidence in the aftermath.”
- Deborah Mercy, communications coordinator at the University of Alaska Fairbanks: “They don’t know exactly how many (whales have died). It’s a big mystery.”
- Bree Witteveen, UAF Sea Grant marine mammal specialist: “It is enough to raise a concern that something unusual, something out of the ordinary is happening.”
- Andrea Medeiros, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: “You don’t usually see large mortality events in that area… I don’t know if there’s a connection or not [between all the bird, walrus, and whale deaths].”
Published: June 20th, 2015 at 8:43 pm ET