“Horrific environmental mystery… Everyone’s freaked out”: 1,500% normal death rate in whales off West Coast — Gov’t declares unprecedented Unusual Mortality Event — Scientists alarmed, ‘no idea’ what’s happening — Expert: “It’s all going to cascade up to us” — Other die-offs being reported (VIDEOS)

Published: August 24th, 2015 at 7:52 am ET
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NOAA, Aug 20, 2015 (emphasis added): 2015 large whale stranding locations in the Western Gulf of Alaska… These mortalities are unusual because there is a marked increase in the magnitude or a marked change in the nature of morbidity, mortality or strandings when compared with prior records… Additionally, large whale strandings have increased during the months of July and August in the waters off of British Columbia, Canada… Large whale strandings have continued to the present… Additionally, a common murre die-off was reported… This is the first large whale UME in Alaska.

AP: 30 large whales [have died in the] Gulf of Alaska… [NOAA] declared the deaths an “unusual mortality event”… [In Canada] six large whales have been reported dead

Guardian: Experts puzzled as 30 whales stranded; Scientists ‘very concerned’… NOAA concedes ‘bottom line is we don’t know what’s causing deaths… [There’s] an official investigation into the mystery of what could be killing so many marine mammals.

Huffington Post: Whales are turning up dead along the Alaska coast in alarming numbers, and scientists so far have no idea what’s causing it… 30 whales have been found dead… That compares to just five dead whales in all of last year.

CBC Newsfour whales species have been identified… humpback, sperm, grey and fin.

Alaska Dispatch: The whale deaths may be tied to a larger marine pattern, officials said… managers are coping with several abnormalities in the PacificThousands of starving sea lion pups [and] large numbers of seabirds have died… “each of these individual species that are examined are really important to us as we put the whole ecosystem picture together,” [NOAA’s] Rowles said.

KING 5: “If you see one on the beach, you know there have to be more. They’re just dying off shore,” said [NOAA’s] Vera Trainer… “if whales and other marine mammals are getting a huge slug of toxin in their food… they’re going to have problems,” Trainer said… “It’s all going to Cascade up to us,” Trainer said… In addition to whales, Alaska’s seen dead walruses and a lot of dead or disoriented birds… “We think this is giving us a window into the future, and the concern is not just this year, but what’s going to happen in future years,” said Trainer.

Wired: Dozens of dead whales have been washing ashore in Alaska, and nobody knows why… The ordeal has everyone freaked out. NOAA has declared the string of strandings an “unusual mortality event.”… “horrific environmental mystery” seems like a much more appropriate label…

CNN: Whales are dying at an alarming rate in the western Gulf of Alaska… and officials in Alaska have also noted widespread deaths of common murres

KTVA: “A mysterious number of whale deaths in Alaskan waters is puzzling scientists tonight. It’s a mystery… The NOAA wants to know why there have been 30 dead whales in an area that normally sees about 8 deaths a year [Note: That’s an average of 2 every 3 months, 30 in 3 months is 15 times average]. NOAA scientists  say there’s nothing normal about the number of dead whales that have turned up in Alaskan waters… [NOAA scientist Aleria Jensen,] “It could also be some kind of disease or maybe another environmental issue.”

Washington Post: One cause that they’ve basically ruled out is radiation exposure. All it takes is a quick Google to know that many instinctively blame the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster for animal deaths. In acknowledgement of that, NOAA has added a note to its FAQ confirming that the tissue they sampled showed no signs of such contamination

The Post says NOAA has confirmed ‘no signs’ of contamination, however NOAA’s actual statement is full of caveats: “Is there any link to these large whale deaths to the Fukushima nuclear reactor meltdown? It is highly unlikely. From the one fin whale… Preliminary results do not suggest any unusual exposure to human-generated radionuclides, specifically cesium, that would be considered harmful to wildlife. Further testing is underway.”

Watch broadcasts: CNN | CBC | KING 5 | KTVA

Published: August 24th, 2015 at 7:52 am ET
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266 comments to “Horrific environmental mystery… Everyone’s freaked out”: 1,500% normal death rate in whales off West Coast — Gov’t declares unprecedented Unusual Mortality Event — Scientists alarmed, ‘no idea’ what’s happening — Expert: “It’s all going to cascade up to us” — Other die-offs being reported (VIDEOS)

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