Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Answering the "dead whales" question

KQED News/NF News Fix/iSeeChange/Eric Neumann, 9/29/15. "Should we be alarmed more whales are washing ashore in the Bay Area?  

Robert Hutchinson
Just another inquisitive day for Bob
A whale spotted off the Pacifica Pier. (Fototaker)
Live whales, Pacifica Pier
  "Bob Hutchinson is a regular at Sharp Park Beach in Pacifica, where he takes walks, rides his mountain bike and sometimes goes fishing. .... Bob Hutchinson recently sent in this question:  “Why have there been three dead whales washed up in Pacifica, California in the last four months, when in 35 years of living here I’ve only seen one or two?” 

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 28 whales have died in California so far this year, about a third more than normal. The causes of death are mixed. For example, they’re malnourished, they get caught in fishing gear or they’re killed by orcas. But the number that have been hit by ships is up slightly, like the fin whale in Alameda. According to Nate Mantua, a researcher at NOAA’s Southwest Fisheries Science Center in Santa Cruz, the reason those collisions are happening can be traced back to what’s in the water.

“The ocean is exceptionally warm,” Mantua said, “probably warmer than at any time in our historical records that go back to 1900 or so.”  The warm water he described is called “the blob.” But unlike the creeping red goo in the 1958 horror flick, the one he’s talking about is a massive area of warm water sitting off the coast right now. It’s kind of like a bathtub out in the ocean.

A whale spotted off the Pacifica Pier. (Fototaker)
Cool waters, dinner, Pacifica
“That warmth of the offshore waters has caused a huge change in the distribution of a lot of marine life,” Mantua said. Marine life, like krill and sardines, seeks out cold water. Because of the blob, that cold ocean water is sitting close to shore this year. So, that’s where whales come to feed, and that’s where the ship strikes happen. Read more.

Submitted by Boy Hutchinson
Related news articlesCBS News 5/Weather/Roberta Gonzales, Anchor, 7/16/15, "Is it just me or are whales easier to spot off the California Coast this year?" .... "The Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, has put together a summary of whale patterns off the California Coastal waters, primarily off the Bay Area shoreline. Here is the migration patterns for whales. Humpback Whale – Migrate May through November; Gray Whale, Killer Whale – Migrate Dec through May; Blue Whale – Migrate July through October. "... I don't see a hump, and it is not gray. Therefore it MUST be a Blue Whale!  But how rare is it for a whale to swim so close to the shore?"  

For Fix Pacifica blog whale reprint articles: search this blog: whales. Also view a MUST SEE video by Andy Forward from Nextdoor email, posted by Steve Sinai, 9/27/15, "Paddle Boarders close encounters with Whales, Linda Mar, Pacifica", 3:38 minutes.  (Andy Forward included his Horse Presence.com business location, and has listed a series of  YouTube videos.) 

Note photographs: Bob Hutchinson from his LinkedIn account. Whales by Tony from the related CBS 5 News article.  Article framing by the poster, who also chose to include a photograph of Bob.

Posted by Kathy Meeh


Australian Rules Football (Footie) said...

Just another reason why we must oppose Highway One widening Hutch!

Kathy Meeh said...

Footie 1039, that's a good NIMBY sentiment: oppose everything progress, while always fumbling the economic, "best practice", improvement and safety "football".

You'd think quality information about our colder coastal shore waters, and the increase of whales near the shore would come from our proclaimed "local environmentalists". But no.
Thanks for your scientific inquiry, and sharing this information of value to all of us, Hutch!