VENTURA COUNTY, Calif. - A growing number of whale carcasses have been washing up along the West Coast this year. Two whales have been washed up along Ventura County and experts say they believe it’s because they are starving.
People along Oxnard Beach are now joining what many along the West Coast are seeing, but why more gray whales and other marine mammals are washing up is a mystery.
So far, at least 46 total whales have washed up along Pacific Coast shores in the last five months compared to 25 for all of last year.
“With those recent numbers, it heads towards record numbers for 2019,” said Sam Macks, interpretation manager at Santa Barbara Sea Center.
The ninth gray whale this year was just discovered on Monday in San Francisco. That whale was struck and killed by a boat.
“Locally we have seen two stranded gray whales,” said Macks. “The first one was in March along the L.A. County and Ventura County line and then the most recent one was in Ventura County.”
Photos taken just last week at Mandalay State Beach in Oxnard show a gray whale and seals all washed up without explanation.
“The most common reason it is occurring and what scientists are seeing is that these whales are showing up dangerously malnourished, if not emaciated, and that might mean there is not enough food in their Arctic feeding grounds,” said Macks.
Gray whales are making their annual migration to breeding waters off Baja, California. Then they head back to the Arctic to feed which has many experts concerned.
“Scientists don’t understand quite yet about why we are seeing these high numbers,” said Macks. “We are theorizing about the Arctic feeding grounds and there not being enough food, but then on the other hand it is not necessarily cause for concern for the entire species as they are at their record numbers since they were nearly hunted to extinction. Their population are currently about 27,000 and scientists think they might be at their capacity level.”
It is important to note that some of the whale deaths in the Bay area were also due to ship strikes.