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Latest Deceased Whale on Oregon Coast: Cause of Death Still Not Conclusive

Published 06/21/2019 at 5:53 PM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Latest Deceased Whale on Oregon Coast: Cause of Death Still Not Conclusive

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(Gearhart, Oregon) – Yet another deceased gray whale has washed ashore on the Oregon coast – this time in Gearhart, a week ago. (Photos courtesy Seaside Aquarium).

All the test results are not yet in after a week, according to Seaside Aquarium, so the cause of death is still a bit of a mystery after all this time. It is the sixth gray whale to come onshore this year that the aquarium’s group has dealt with, part of a spate of mysterious deaths across the west coast which seem to be pointing towards starvation as a cause.

The Seaside Aquarium and its staff are part of the Southern Washington Northern Oregon Standing Network, and thus attend to different kinds of sea mammals and fish that wind up on the beaches – dead or alive.

Tiffany Boothe with the aquarium said this one was 23 feet long – and like the rest – a female, landing at Sunset Beach which is just north of Gearhart.

“A necropsy was preformed but nothing too telling was found,” she said last week. “We were able to collect quite a few samples including heart, lung, and stomach content which, when processed, may reveal a little more information.”

Updating that information today, June 21, Boothe there was nothing remarkable found in its stomach, either. There had been some theories that consumption of plastics may be a factor in the starvation of the animals, but there have been no reports of large numbers of plastics in the bellies of any of the dead whales along the west coast.

In fact, Boothe reports no plastics were found in this case. The whale was on the thin side, however.

Crews were able to do a preliminary necropsy on the beach and rule out some causes of death.

“There was no human interaction,” Boothe said. “There was no sign of hemorrhage, no boat strike.”

The creature had been deceased for some time and was worse for the wear, though Boothe said she doesn’t notice the smell as much as others do.

“I’ve been dealing with so many bad smelling creatures this one didn’t seem so bad,” she said. “But it was pretty bad according to some bystanders.”

As of May, there had been some 60 deceased whales strand along the coasts of Washington, Oregon and California in the previous five months, a number which is alarming experts. According to NOAA, one factor that seems to be common among them is that they appear starved to various degrees. The prevailing theory – though not particularly strongly believed – is that the population of gray whales has expanded enough that food scarcity is now an issue for them.

Gray whales fully recovered from their slaughter by the whaling industry and were taken off the endangered list in 1994. More photos below:

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Above: barnacles attach themselves to whales, and this one in Gearhart was no exception.

Below, other whale strandings attended to by Seaside Aquarium in the past:



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