So far this year, 22 dead whales have washed ashore on the coast of Alaska

By Eric Todisco
July 11, 2019 07:43 PM

Dead whales are washing up on the shores of North America at an increasing and alarming rate.

Over the July 4 weekend, seven dead whales were found on the shores of Alaska, CNN reported. Four were found near Kodiak Island, two at Egegik and the last at Takli Island.

The seven latest casualties brings the death toll of gray whales discovered in Alaska to 22 total since the start of 2019.

The growing number has marine biologists extremely concerned. In May, The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration declared an unusual mortality event (UME) for the whales at risk.

According to the data gathered by the National Marine Fisheries Services, nearly all of the dead whales are being found on the West Coast of North America. As of June 27, the U.S. has the largest record for dead gray whales on the coast, with 85 this year.

Mexico narrowly follows the United States with 78, while Canada has 8 recorded findings as of late June.

James Glenn/NOAA Fisheries

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Within the U.S., four states have encountered the depleting population of gray whales: Alaska, Washington, California and Oregon. Washington and California lead for the most discoveries so far this year, with 29 and 37,  respectively.

Between 2001 and 2018, the average number of dead whales found ashore in those four states averaged at less than 5 in the month of July. In 2019, 7 dead whales have already been recorded in just this month, an alarming increase from the past.

May 2019 had the highest number of gray whales washing ashore, with 30 between all four states.

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According to the Marine Mammal Protection Act, a UME is described as “a stranding event that is unexpected, involves a significant die-off of any marine mammal population, and demands immediate response.”

A UME is determined by the working group, which consists of experts from scientific and academic institutions, conservation organizations, state and federal agencies. The group goes through a set of seven criteria to determine if they should declare a UME, according to the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

The act also states that immediately reporting a stranded, injured or dead whale is the most important action a person can take, which can be done so by calling the West Coast Marine Mammal Stranding Network.