Whales Dying In Alaska, Algae Bloom Could Be To Blame

Whales are dying in Alaska at an alarming rate, and algae bloom could be to blame. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration investigators are still investigating the deaths of at least 30 large whales and waiting on an autopsy report, according to NOAA staffers who spoke with CNN.

The whales dying along the Gulf of Alaska have baffled investigators. NOAA investigators have classified the deaths as the first “unusual mortality event” for large whales ever designated in Alaska. Canadian authorities in British Columbia have also been baffled by an unusual number of dead whales in recent months.

A multitude of murres, a species of birds which also call the Alaska Peninsula home, have also died in large numbers in the past several months.

A total of 15 large whale strandings have been recorded along the Gulf of Alaska since 2010. NOAA researchers have collected samples from the area to test for algae bloom biotoxins, possible viruses, and bacteria.

A “major” algae bloom that stretched from central California to Washington alerted NOAA staffers that the Gulf of Alaska waters might have been affected by algae bloom toxins.

“Biotoxins will be one of the top priorities, but not the only priority that we’ll be looking at to rule in or rule out whether it’s playing a role in this death investigation and these mortalities, both in Canada and the U.S.,” NOAA Fisheries scientist Teri Rowles said during an interview with the Alaska Daily News.

A total 61 whale deaths deemed unusual occurrences have happened since 1991. About half of the “unusual mortality,” which have occurred since 1991, were traced back to biotoxins, human interactions, malnutrition, or malnutrition, according to NOAA statistics.

One large whale carcass is currently being tested by NOAA to determine the cause of death. The corpses of the other dead whales were floating in the water for a significant amount of time and were either degraded or could not be retrieved. NOAA scientists also stated that the investigation into the massive number of whales dying in Alaska could take weeks, or perhaps even months or years.

What do you think is causing the whale deaths in Alaska?

[Image via Shutterstock.com]

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