The recent sightings of humpback whales in the Columbia River was quite a sight for some boaters. Scientists are uncertain what is causing these humpback whales to go so far away from the Pacific Ocean, but the bigger mystery is what is causing the reports of 2015 whale deaths.
In a related report by the Inquisitr, it is possible for a seal to use a whale as a surfing board in order to escape from attacking killer whales.
Some researchers claim it is possible they are ranging further away from their normal feeding grounds due to the absence of their usual food sources. Biologist Deborah Jacques notes that seeing humpback whales in the Columbia River is very unusual, and she speculates that a strong El Nino weather pattern may be related.
“It’s really great to be able to see it, but you also wonder what’s going on out in the ocean,” she said. “Is there poor productivity out there this year with the blob and El Nino conditions?”
Whatever the reason for the whales’ Columbia River excursion, we do know scientists have been alarmed by the announcement of 30 whales deaths in 2015. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) says the whale deaths are an “unusual mortality event” which “demands immediate response.” The dead include 11 fin whales, 14 humpback whales, one gray whale, and four unknown carcasses.
NOAA scientists have been researching the cause of the whale deaths, and, although they are uncertain of the exact cause, they say it’s “highly unlikely” the whale deaths were caused by the release of cesium radiation by the Fukushima nuclear reactor in Japan.
“Our leading theory at this point is that the harmful algal bloom has contributed to the deaths,” said NOAA spokesperson Julie Speegle, according to The Guardian. “But we have no conclusive evidence.”
In addition, the reports of killer whale deaths along the west coast has scientists just as alarmed. It is estimated the total killer whale population in the world numbers about 500,000 orcas, but according to UPI the 2014 annual census for Puget Sound killer whales had dropped to 78 animals, the lowest in 30 years.
In addition, Dr. Stephen Raverty, a veterinary pathologist with B.C.’s Ministry of Agriculture, says that all of the orca calves have been dying in recent years.
“We haven’t had any survivals in babies for a couple of years,” he said, according to the Times Colonist. “We have had stillborns and newborns die and a number of whales that appear to be pregnant but didn’t ultimately produce any calves. It’s like zero survival in birth rate here.”
So, while humpback whales in Columbia River boating videos may be exciting, let us just hope their movement is not linked to the 2015 whale deaths.
[Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images]