Whales sometimes become entangled in fishing nets and the modern nets are especially dangerous because they do not rot and weaken after a time but can snare marine life again and again. One of the whales being necropsied in BC had scars from a fishing net. Shipping lanes can be deadly to whales. Stranding sometimes happens when the animals become disoriented. This time the prime suspect may be a single celled organism – a plankton bloom in the Gulf of Alaska.
The waters in the Gulf of Alaska have been unusually warm for that region and a burst of growth(bloom) of plankton has resulted. While it is suspected that one of the organisms is one that causes paralytic shellfish poisoning, it has not been proved. It is known that shellfish gatherers on the gulf have become ill. If the fish eating whales ate fish tainted with the plankton they could have become paralyzed. Dead sea lions, puffins and fish have been washing ashore as well.
The warm water in the Gulf has been referred to as “the blob”.
“We’re kind primed to answer this complex question as it plays out,” said Kris Holderied, NOAA’s science lead at its Kasitsna Bay laboratory. “This warm blob is a big thing that might be giving us a foretaste of what’s happening in the future.” Alaska Journal of Commerce
The warming trend is expected to continue with a strong El Nino condition extending into 2016.
Alaska Journal of Commerce
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