Three more dead whales wash up in San Francisco Bay, bringing total to nine

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Three more dead gray whales were found washed up in San Francisco Bay over the last week, adding to the total of dead beached whales this year, according to the Marine Mammal Center.

A gray whale was found in Keil Cove April 27 and then drifted to Lime Point in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, experts said. The whale was still alive and underweight when researchers found it, and it “spent 47 days exploring San Francisco Bay.”

Another gray whale was found washed up May 3 in the Port of Oakland and a third was found May 4 at Angel Island State Park. Experts weren’t able to perform an animal autopsy on any of the three whales to determine the cause of death but collected samples for research.

Four gray whales and one fin whale have been found dead in the San Francisco Bay Area since early April, McClatchy News previously reported. Three of the whales had injuries related to a ship strike.

“Over the last few years, our experts have observed gray whales frequenting San Francisco Bay in greater numbers and for longer periods of time,” Kathi George, director of field operations and response at the Marine Mammal Center, said in a news release. “These whales are at increased risk from human activity, which is why we are committed to better understanding the ongoing challenges and threats these animals face so we can safely share the ocean and bay with them.”

A total of nine dead whales have been found in the San Francisco Bay Area this year, including seven gray whales, a fin whale and a sperm whale, according to experts. The Marine Mammal Center’s research team found that entanglement, trauma from ship strikes and malnutrition are the most common causes of death for whales they studied.

“Nobody wants to see whales die,” said Justin Viezbicke, California stranding network coordinator with the National Marine Fisheries Service. “Our partners, like The Marine Mammal Center, help us learn from the whales that have died to understand the factors affecting the remaining 20,000 gray whales still migrating north off the West Coast.”

The number of gray whales migrating across the West Coast has dropped 24% since 2016, NOAA Fisheries reported in January.