Save America’s Wildlife

Why are hundreds of North Pacific gray whales dying?

In recent years, an alarming numbers of gray whales have died. Scientists think they know why.


A gray whale spy-hopping above the water's surface

Flash back to 2016. At the time, about 27,000 gray whales swam along 5,000 miles of Pacific coastline. They spent their winters in the warm waters off Mexico raising their young and their summers up north in the Arctic, feeding on crustaceans and other bottom dwellers. Today, the population hovers around 15,000.

In less than a decade, nearly 700 of these whales have washed ashore on our beaches, and scientists estimate that only about one in twenty dead whales wash ashore. Researchers now think they’ve uncovered the culprit… climate change.

Climate change and warmer waters are amplified in the Arctic, where gray whales spend their summers bulking up. Climate change means that every year there are changes in sea-ice cover, currents, nutrients and access to high quality food sources. It appears that the whales are simply struggling to eat enough to maintain their health throughout the year.

This is a stark reminder that a warming planet does more than affect us and that we need to do all we can to lessen our impact. Let’s stop drilling for oil in our oceans and on land, continue to shift away from fossil fuels, and invest more in renewables — for the climate and also for the gray whales in the Pacific.

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