Fourth dead gray whale in Alaska washes up on Kenai Peninsula

May 29, 2019

A young dead grey whale was found near Clam Gulch on the Kenai Peninsula last week.
Credit Courtesy of NOAA

Another dead gray whale has washed up on Alaska’s shoreline, the fourth instance in recent weeks. The young whale was found on the Kenai Peninsula near Clam Gulch.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said it was first notified about the animal last week.

“A family fishing for herring north of the Clam Gulch Recreation Area on the Kenai Peninsula discovered the dead whale last Wednesday and they reported the stranding to NOAA Fisheries on Friday with a photograph,” NOAA spokeswoman Julie Speegle explained. “After our marine mammal experts examined the family's photo of the whale, we were able to confirm that it was another gray whale.”

Speegle said veterinarians were able to examine the photo and determine that the whale is unusually “skinny,” suggesting that it didn’t get enough to eat before migrating north to Alaska.

That’s a familiar story this year. About 70 gray whales, which is unusually high, have been found dead along the West Coast, mostly due to a lack of food.

However, Alaska’s numbers, currently at four, are only slightly above average for the state.

“Our average for the time frame of January through May is zero to three dead grey whales and those are numbers from the past 18 years,” Speegle said. “When we had a gray whale unusual mortality event in 1999 to 2000, during the same timeframe, we had 18 dead gray whales here in Alaska. So we are slightly elevated, but not super unusual.”

Speegle said a necropsy has not been performed on the latest dead whale on the Kenai Peninsula due to its location. She said NOAA employees will be able to reach the animal on Friday during a minus tide.