In this May 24, 2019 photo, teachers and students from Northwest Montessori School in Seattle examine the carcass of a gray whale after it washed up on the coast of Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, just north of Kalaloch Campground in Olympic National Park. Federal scientists on Friday, May 31 opened an investigation into what is causing a spike in gray whale deaths along the West Coast this year. So far, about 70 whales have stranded on the coasts of Washington, Oregon, Alaska and California, the most since 2000. (AP Photo/Gene Johnson)

By GENE JOHNSON Associated Press

SEATTLE (AP) — U.S. scientists will investigate why an unusual number of gray whales are washing up dead on West Coast beaches.

About 70 whales have been stranded so far this year on the coasts of California, Oregon, Washington and Alaska, the most since 2000. About five more have been found on British Columbia beaches.

NOAA Fisheries on Friday declared it an “unusual mortality event,” providing additional resources to respond to the deaths and triggering the investigation into the cause.

The agency says the population of the gray whales has grown significantly in the last decade and is now estimated at 27,000. They were removed from the endangered species list in 1994.

In 2000, more than 100 washed up. A similar investigation into those deaths failed to identify a cause.

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Feds to Investigate Spike in Gray Whale Deaths on West Coast

AP, Environment, News |