Gray whales continue to wash up dead and emaciated, but causes remain elusive.
By: Tom Miles, Special to The Christian Science Monitor, Published on Sat Jun 19 2015
As he was getting dressed in the dark, his boss, the chief scientist for the US National Marine Fisheries Service, took him aside and told him a startling development: “The great northern white whale is still alive.”
An hour earlier, that whale was the only whale in sight. Now three others are dead: one, a juvenile, had been picked up dead last weekend by a fisherman. A male and a pregnant female had died on different occasions on the same day last Monday.
The latest report, published on Sunday, is that the great white’s “normal” winter feeding grounds are the waters around the northern tip of Florida, where all three whales were reported missing after a routine dive – one a day over the past two weeks – in the gulf. They were not seen again until the morning of June 8, when “pods of whale” washed up on a beach near Palm Beach Gardens.
The National Ocean Service team, including a helicopter and boat equipped with lights, searched for the missing three great white whales for a week. “We were searching with the help of volunteers, and searching with the help of a police helicopter, using four boats, and also an aircraft,” said Joe Linder, an official with the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
He added, “The dolphins were good enough to help us find the whales, and we got four carcasses.”
But the whales were found to be so depleted that they were placed in a freezer in the NMSU’s Hatfield Marine Science Center. The whales were expected to keep swimming for another week, Linder said, before being returned to the water.
“This is a great example of nature’s ability to adjust and adapt, even to the extent of turning normal, slow and predictable behavior around,” the ocean service chief said.