On August 16, beachgoers reported a gray whale had been beached outside Yachats, Oregon. This marks the third beached whale in the state, though the entire West Coast has seen a higher number of stranded whales than is typical.
According to Jim Rice, the stranding program manager at OSU’s Marine Mammal Institute, it was a 30-foot juvenile gray whale that bore signs of a recent orca whale attack.
Over the last four years, the West Coast has lost at least a quarter of its gray whale population, although researchers aren’t exactly sure why. Drone footage of these whales has shown that they are much skinnier than usual. Rice links this weight loss to diminishing food resources in the Arctic.
These whales are under “nutritional stress,” according to Rice, which leads them to be vulnerable to diseases, predation, and parasites, among other things. There is, however, some hopeful news for the gray whales. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports that while 122 whales were stranded in 2019, there were 93 stranded in 2020, and only 43 stranded this year.
These numbers are promising, according to Rice, and they are much better than the numbers of the past three years.