NOAA is declaring the recent deaths of 30 large whales in the western Gulf of Alaska an "unusual mortality event," triggering a focused, expert investigation into the cause.
The agency defines an unusual mortality event as a stranding event that is unexpected, involves a significant die-off of a marine mammal population, and demands immediate response.
Since May 2015, 11 fin whales, 14 humpback whales, one gray whale, and four unidentified cetaceans have stranded around the islands of the western Gulf of Alaska and the southern shoreline of the Alaska Peninsula. To date, this brings the large whale strandings for this region to almost three times the historical average.
The declaration of an unusual mortality event will allow NOAA and federal, state, and tribal partners to develop a response plan and conduct a rigorous scientific investigation into the cause of death for the stranded whales.
Members of the public can assist in the investigation by immediately contacting the Alaska Marine Mammal Stranding Network hotline at 877-9-AKR-PRD (877-925-7773) if they see a stranded or dead marine mammal. Only specially trained marine mammal experts are authorized to respond to marine mammals in distress. The public should not touch stranded or floating whales.
source: NOAA Fisheries