Scientists and researchers are concerned at the discovery of at least nine dead fin whales in the waters off of Alaska’s coast within the last few weeks.
On average, only one fin whale is found dead every year, sometimes even less. The fin whale is on the endangered species list, researchers are worried if the trend continues, it may reach extinction. Some researchers are blaming rising water temperatures for the deaths. However, the discovery of dead walruses and sea birds has other researchers wondering if there is some other unknown reason for the deaths. If the rising temperature of ocean waters is to blame, there is a legitimate concern that other whale species may experience the same fate.
FOX News shared that the dead fin whales were discovered near Kodiak Island and starting appearing around mid May. With an average of one or less found a year, nine over the course of month has researches scurrying to find the cause of the deaths. Of the nine fin whales, two were found washed up on shore, the other seven were found at sea. Samples were obtained from the carcasses and researchers are awaiting results to determine whether the fin whales ingested toxins of some sort, contracted a disease, or if the rising water temperature might be to blame.
Although listed on the endangered species list, fin whales do have enough numbers to be considered hearty enough to avoid extinction. However, if the mystery cause of death is not determined, according to the Washington Post, the potential risk of extinction rises exponentially.
Examination of the fin whales that arrived on shore showed no visible signs of injury and checked out to be healthy from a visual standpoint. Even the layers of blubber were considered to be healthy, according to Bree Witteveen.
“It was a really healthy animal; there weren’t any obvious signs of cause of death,”
The rising water temperature has fluctuated between 0.9 and 3.6 degrees over the average temperate. When sea water warms to a specific level, the influx of toxic algae can thrive within the warmth. Fin Whales siphon their food through the water, which could allow for the ingestion of the toxins. However, the large number of dead whales have not been observed or recorded, leading researchers to wonder if it could be something more.
Until the lab results come back, the cause will remain under speculation. However, it is hopeful that the deaths are nothing more than a coincidence and that the remaining members of the endangered species will remain healthy.
[Photo Courtesy: The Washington Post]