Fourth ever humpback whale strands in Seattle area

Fourth ever humpback whale strands in Seattle area… SR3 is doing wildlife CSI to understand why!  

Early last week SR3, along with collaborators from Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) searched the southern Puget Sound after NOAA received reports of a humpback whale in poor health. SR3’s goal was to perform a health examination to see if the whale was skinny, had any lesions suggesting it had been hit by a boat, or was possibly entangled.

Unfortunately, the whale could not be located despite extensive search efforts. Shortly after the search ended the whale was reported deceased on Anderson Island. Multiple agencies including SR3, Cascadia Research Collective (CRC), WDFW, and the MaST Center came together to perform a necropsy. Upon initial exam, the whale was noted to be emaciated (very thin) and samples of all the internal organs were collected to be analyzed to determine cause of death.

This is only the fourth humpback whale that has stranded in the Salish Sea: two humpbacks stranded in 2016 and one stranded in 2015, leading to a growing concern of what may be the cause of the increase in strandings. 

The number of humpback whales spending the summer months in the Puget Sound area has been increasing in recent years after extensive whaling eliminated them in the Salish Sea. Humpback whales migrate between warmer waters in Hawaii, where they give birth in protected waters during winter months, and cooler, more productive waters in Alaska, where they feed and build up their fat reserves during summer months.

A big thank you to all of the wonderful groups that pulled together to make this stranding response possible (NOAA, Cascadia Research Collective (CRC), WDFW and the MaST Center Aquarium). These response efforts allow us to learn more about why humpback whales are stranding more in the Puget Sound.

Find more information here in the San Juan Islander's write up.