West Coast
A gray whale found dead off Point Reyes National Seashore in northern California. Photo by M. Flannery, California Academy of Sciences.

2019 Gray Whale Unusual Mortality Event Along the West Coast

Since January 1, 2019, elevated gray whale strandings have occurred along the west coast of North America from Mexico through Alaska. This event has been declared an Unusual Mortality Event (UME).

Since January 1, 2019, elevated gray whale strandings have occurred along the west coast of North America from Mexico through Alaska. This event has been declared an Unusual Mortality Event (UME).

A previous UME for gray whales occurred in 1999-2000.  Below is a graph comparing 2019 gray whale strandings to 1999 and 2000 strandings by month.

Why are Gray Whales Stranding?

Full or partial necropsy examinations were conducted on a subset of the whales. Preliminary findings in several of the whales have shown evidence of emaciation. These findings are not consistent across all of the whales examined, so more research is needed.

As part of the UME investigation process, NOAA is assembling an independent team of scientists to coordinate with the Working Group on Marine Mammal Unusual Mortality Events to review the data collected, sample stranded whales, and determine the next steps for the investigation.

Map of gray whale strandings along the west coast of North America through May 27, 2019.

Report a Stranded or Floating Whale

The most important action someone can take is to immediately report a dead, injured, or stranded marine mammal. Make the report by calling in California, Oregon or Washington the West Coast Marine Mammal Stranding Network: 1-866-767-6114, in Alaska the Alaska Marine Mammal Stranding Network: 1-877-925-7773, and in Canada, the British Columbia Marine Mammal Response Network 1-800-465-4336.  

You can also contact the U.S. Coast Guard on VHF Channel 16. Do not approach or touch injured or dead marine mammals.

All marine mammals are federally protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Only local and state officials and people authorized by NOAA Fisheries may legally handle live and dead marine mammals.

Additional Information

Last updated by  Office of Protected Resources on 06/21/2019

See NOAA Fisheries . . .