SAN FRANCISCO - Three gray whales have been found dead in and around the San Francisco Bay in the past week. It’s raising concern among marine scientists who said that number is alarming.
It’s the start of the whales’ northern migration. The center expects one or two whales to wash ashore in a couple weeks but three within a week is a lot. It’s reminiscent of 2019 when there was a high number of whale deaths in the Bay.
In scenic San Francisco Bay lies a sad discovery Wednesday, the carcass of a 33-foot male gray whale.
"These creatures, they are such magnificent creatures and to see them dead like this is really heartbreaking," said Sea Valor CEO/Founder Eric Jones.
Jones’s nonprofit Sea Valor helped tow the whale to Angel Island. The whale joins a 41-foot adult gray female discovered a week ago near Crissy Field.
The necropsy that was done by the Marine Mammal Center on the adult female was inconclusive.
"Whatever killed her did so suddenly so it's a suspicious death," said Dr. Pádraig Duignan, Marine Mammal Center Director of Pathology. "We don’t know exactly what it was yet."
Over the weekend, a third whale, a female not fully adult was found outside the Bay, south of San Francisco and is currently at Fitzgerald Marine Reserve.
"This year we’ve had these two animals and there was another one on the weekend so three animals in the San Francisco area in a very short space of time so we are concerned," said Dr. Duignan.
What killed them? The center is trying to determine the cause of death for all three. Past experience is that half of the animals that the center examines die in the Bay from human interaction.
"Either they are being struck by a ship or they got entangled in something or they have been hit by a propeller," said Dr. Duignan.
The center said, it’s often by accident and understandable. The Port of Oakland is busy. Gray whales are difficult to see and elusive in the waters.
"To have three dead whales on the beach within a week of each other, I’ve never heard of that and I’ve lived here my entire life," said Eric Forster, Sea Valor First Mate.
The mammal center is raising awareness among the shipping industry and smaller boats to watch out for the whales and give them space, hoping to prevent more deaths.
"It may be that we don’t see any more in the next few weeks but it also could be we could have more
And if we do have more it will put us in the ballpark of 2019," said Dr. Duignan.
In 2019, NOAA declared a "Gray Whale Unusual Mortality Event." The center sad from the animals examined back then one third died from poor body condition, another third died from human interaction and the remainder, the cause was unknown.
Azenith Smith is a reporter for KTVU. Email Azenith at email@example.com and follow her on Twitter and Instagram @AzenithKTVU or Facebook or ktvu.com.