Gray whales continue to wash up dead and emaciated, but causes remain elusive
by David Crane
There was no mistaking the sight as a young man walked along the beach on a cloudy February morning with the Pacific Ocean and winds whipping the shore of Haida Gwaii.
I first saw a humpback whale dead about a mile from the beach; he had washed ashore on this spot during the night in late January but was only discovered by passersby the next day.
Since then, I have seen a dead humpback near here almost every day, and sometimes over the past week alone. But the whales remain elusive, despite the best efforts of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and local beachcombers.
To the best of my knowledge, these whales appear to be dying of starvation, but nobody’s quite sure about the cause.
One theory, put forth by a British writer, is that the whales are dying in areas of high nitrogenous waste pollution, which is caused by agriculture and urban development.
And that the whales are dying because of the oil industry or the fisheries industry, which is increasingly dependent on harvesting humpback whales to supply the increasingly scarce fin fish.
But the humpback whale population has been declining for years, and an endangered status has been added to the list of the world’s endangered species in 2014.
And then there are the humpback whales that have washed up on our shores. In the winter, when the weather is mild, they appear to be more prevalent than they are in the summer, when they can be spotted as far out as 30 miles from Vancouver Island.
But in the winter, when the water is low and the shore is rocky, one would wonder why there were so many dead whales washing up on the beach.
There are two explanations. One explanation is that the dead whales have died of hypothermia during an unusually cold winter.
One theory is that the whales are dying of starvation in cold water.
But it’s a theory that the beachcombers won’t want to entertain.
In the summer, when the water is high and the shore is sandy, the animals are more likely to die of starvation or dehydration in the cold water, and in