Subject: Gray Whale Story

Kim Marshall (kimm@oceanalliance.org)
Tue, 1 Jun 1999 14:47:56 -0400 (EDT)

Hello Jennifer, I have been investigating your concern as to why gray
whales have been dying off the coast of Calinfornia and I have been saving
articles including the one you sent.  I have not read anything else or
heard of any new news but Bruce Mate is a good source for accurate
information.  Here is another article from Dr. Mate about this issue:

UNITED PRESS : Whale deaths could be linked to food

NEWPORT, Ore., May 19 (UPI) -- An Oregon State University whale expert says
changes to the undersea ecosystem in summer feeding grounds off Alaska
could be what's killing gray whales off the coast of Mexico and the western
United States.
At least 65 gray whales have been found dead along the coast of Mexico's
Baja Peninsula, where the animals migrate each winter to give birth. Still
more washed up along California shores in March and April as the whales
migrated north to the Bering Sea.
Bruce Mate, who is based at OSU's Hatfield Marine Science Center, said
today one possibility for the gray whale mortalities might be they are not
getting enough to eat during the summer.
The animals spend the summer months in the Bering Sea between Alaska and
Siberia feeding on bottom-dwelling creatures.
Mate says they fatten up and then fast during the migration south, and they
don't eat during the winter or in the spring when they head north again.
Mate said, "So gray whales might go without food anywhere from three to
five months and those that didn't fill up the tank, so to speak, in the
Bering Sea may be returning on empty."
Whale researchers have noted great changes in the Bering Sea at all levels
of the food chain, and some have theorized that those changes are part of
an even larger disruption of ocean temperature and biomass patterns.
Mate says those changes might be affecting the amount of food the gray
whales can find during the summer.
Gray whales need to eat enough food to survive a 12,000-mile migration from
Alaska to the Baja Peninsula, the longest migration of any marine mammal.
Mate says this year's fatality figures are the highest in the 24 years that
people have kept track of gray whale migration.

Please let me know if you hear of anything.  Thank you, Kim

Kim Marshall-Tilas
Whale Conservation Institute/Ocean Alliance
191 Weston Road
Lincoln, MA  01773
(781) 259-0423
fax: 259-0288
website: http://www.oceanalliance.org