High Number of Whales Dying in San Francisco Bay
Ship strikes are killing many gray whales and blue whales in or near San Francisco. Four of the ten gray whales that died this year were struck by ships. Ship strikes are a worldwide concern for blue, humpback and fin whales which are more likely to be struck and die as a result of being hit by ships. The largest animal to ever live, the blue whale, with an estimated population of 8,000-9,000 individuals is particularly vulnerable.
The tonnage of ships has increased over the last few decades. Whales that frequent shipping lanes adjacent to San Francisco Bay ports are at risk. That is because record numbers of humpback and blue whales have been feeding in recent years off the coast and even in San Francisco Bay.
During the gray whales' winter migration which usually ends in May, the whales normally do not enter the Bay or linger in the area. They have been stopping midway through their migration to Alaska to get enough food to allow them to travel the remaining distance.The population has grown in the last decade and is estimated at 27,000 which is the highest since surveys began in 1967. Some marine biologists question whether their numbers have reached the limit of what their environment can sustain. It is also suggested that the loss of Arctic sea ice due to local warming is to blame. Tired and malnourished whales are more likely to be struck by ships, attacked by orcas, or entangled in fishing gear.
In a typical year, only one or two gray whales are washed ashore in the Bay Area. While their numbers have been increasing, the fact that some whales are malnourished is a concern and could have devastating effects on the entire West Coast whale populations. Lack of food is already killing many of the resident orcas of J, K and L pods of Washington.
With international shipping companies agreeing to reduce speeds voluntarily, federal officials say their campaign to slow ships is gaining strength. Their reduced speed going in and out of California ports is less likely to injure or kill whales.
Shipping firms, representing 45 percent of the 8,000 inbound vessels that pass through the area, cut their speed in 2018 to 10 knots (11.5 mph) or less to areas populated by whales. These include the Farallones, Channel Islands, Monterey Bay and Cordell Bank marine sanctuaries. Often, whales have to travel through national marine sanctuaries to get to their destination.
Save the Whales and the City of Marina, California are proud of the Endangered Species Artwork painted by two talented CSUMB (California State University Monterey Bay) students.
To draw attention to species needing protection, two service-learning students, Rachel Rye and Anthony Miller, depicted five species on 10 concrete trash cans. The project was a labor of love.
The endangered species include: the vaquita porpoise, sea otter, snowy plover, monarch butterfly/Smith's butterfly, and sea turtle.
Marina Mayor Bruce Delgado planted the seed for the project, and participated in the completion by adding the clear coat sealing of the artwork. It is at Locke-Paddon Park, adjacent to the Marina Library.
Maris Sidenstecker2 of Save The Whales added:
"This artwork combines the unique talents of Rachel and Anthony. It depicts how art and science can bring awareness to species that need protection and support."
The City of Marina is in Monterey County, California.
Largest Whale Fossil Found
The blue whale is the largest animal alive today. A fossil of a blue whale on the shore of an Italian lake suggests when this whale became so very large. The fossil has a large skull and it reaches an amazing 85 feet long; a modern blue whale may reach up to 100 feet. What is really surprising is that this was during the early Pleistocene era, and this shows that large whales were living far earlier that previously thought, 1.5 million years to be exact. Understanding how they came to be so big has been a challenge because large whale fossils from the past 2.5 million years are rare.
This is likely because the planet went through a number of ice ages during this period, when water froze into ice and sea levels dropped dramatically. The remains of whales that died in those long-ago days, even if they stranded on land, may now be many dozens of feet below sea level.
Critically Endangered Species Update
A member of the J group of the Washington orcas known as J, K, and L pods
has given birth to a new baby. The baby is the first offspring of 11-year-old
J37. Our hopes for a long and productive life go to Baby J56. We hope that
the dams on the Snake River are taken down so that her entire family has enough
North Atlantic Right Whale
A year after the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale population added no calves for the first time on record, females
have given birth to seven calves so far this past winter. While encouraging, that number is still not proof that they are rebounding.
Right whales are not finding enough food and this is especially worrisome for female rights, as there is a long period between
pregnancies. Other major causes of death are ship strikes and fishing gear entanglement.
The vaquita count remains very low. We don't know how many there are, except that the count
is possibly too low to recover. We may not know in our lifetimes because they are small, illusive and the weather sometimes makes it difficult to find them. They only surface every few seconds to breathe.
Mark your calendars and join us, or another group closer to you, as we celebrate vaquita.
Remember to reduce your use of plastics. The oceans depend on it if the marine animals who live there are to survive.
Maris Sidenstecker I
President, Save The Whales
501(c)(3) Nonprofit Organization