Emaciated gray whale found dead in Southern Puget Sound over holiday weekend
A 12.5m (41 ft) adult male gray whale was examined on 07 July 2019 by biologists from Cascadia Research (CRC), Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and World Vets. The whale was in good postmortem condition and initial examination revealed malnutrition as the likely cause of mortality; evidenced by external emaciation, no oil in the blubber, and only a small amount of woody debris in the stomach and intestines. No indications of ship strike or entanglement were found. This whale had been in the South Puget Sound area since 11 June 2019, when it was sighted live and in poor body condition in North Bay, where it remained over the following weeks until it was sighted near Boston Harbor in Olympia on 03 July.
It was discovered dead and floating in Budd Inlet on 06 July, after which it was secured by Sealife Response Rehab and Research (SR3) and CRC, until the whale could be towed to a site for examination and decomposition by Vernon and Debbie Moore on the research vessel Sea 3.
This whale is the latest in a record-high year for gray whale mortalities in Washington, with over 30 dead gray whales in the state since January. Many of these have exhibited signs of nutritional stress. Elevated mortalities along their entire migration route (Mexico to Alaska) this year have prompted NOAA to declare an Unusual Mortality Event to help coordinate and facilitate a large scale investigation.
Click here for a time lapse video of this examination.