top of page
  • Kim

Whales vs. Unusual Mortality Event

I hope whales don’t become extinct, but the way things are going, it doesn’t look too good for them, but I hope we can turn things around before it is too late.

On a frustrating but gorgeous day, while I was going for a walk and taking a much-needed break from working on my research (that partially concerned whales), I walked past a tour that was just starting. I accidentally ended up in the right place at the right time, but I found some of the information very concerning.

It was very windy so unfortunately, the audio on the video is not the best, but I hope you can hear the tour guide who is also one of the trained volunteers that has been helping watch the behavior of the whales and keep count of them for the past 38 years. This location cannot provide an accurate count on the number of whales migrating so although the whales that pass through this area are counted, their study focuses more on behavior of the whales such as interactions, mating, and breeching. Trained volunteers count and record the behavior of whales 7 days a week, 12 hours a day, 6am-6pm, in all weather conditions, from December 1st till May 25th.

They also “…detail calf sighting in both the southbound and northbound migration, which helps track trends in calf recruitment. Spotters also detail migratory behaviors observed, including breaching, spyhopping, rolling, courtship, apparent nursing, possible feeding, and interaction with kelp and with other marine mammals. Participants also note possible human impacts on gray whales, including boat interactions, possible harassment incidents, and entanglements. In addition, we identify and record behaviors of any other marine mammals that utilize these waters, including common dolphin, Pacific bottlenose dolphin, Pacific white-sided dolphin, Risso’s dolphin, northern right whale dolphin, killer whales, false killer whales, pilot whales, Dall’s porpoise, sperm whales, minke whales, humpback whales, blue whales, fin whales, California sea lions, harbor seals, northern elephant seals, and southern sea otters.”

Concerning Information:

The number of whales that have been counted this year has been very low compared to previous years. They have been doing this study for over 38 years, so they have a pretty good idea when the numbers are low or high. In the past two years the numbers have been low as well and whales appear skinnier than before. Low numbers may be due to lack of food in the arctic or it might be taking the whales longer to find the food and harder for them to get pregnant and sustain a pregnancy, or to feed their babies, and there is high mortality rates among the babies as well.

By Daniel Wolfe, CNNPublished March 16, 2022

Since 2019, an international group of scientists, field biologists and volunteers have been investigating a mysterious phenomenon known as an Unusual Mortality Event,or UME, that’s been killing off one the world’s heartiest survivors: the northern Pacific gray whale. In that time, the number of stranded gray whales has reached 500 — a fraction of the many thousands that likely died and sank to the ocean floor.

I hope we can do better and save these amazing creatures before it is too late. Here are some ideas on how you can help:


bottom of page