AP: Unprecedented deaths along U.S. Pacific coast — Scientists: Mass die-offs of mammals, birds, fish… “No one’s sure what happened” — Gov’t wants Unusual Mortality Event declared — Samples “being tested for radionuclides from Fukushima” (PHOTOS & AUDIO)
Published: July 28th, 2015 at 10:23 am ET
AP, Jul 27, 2015 (emphasis added): Scientist says unexplained mass whale deaths off Alaska island may remain a mystery — Researchers may never solve the recent deaths of 18 endangered whales… 10 fin whales [and] eight humpback whales… scientists speculate the animals might have eaten something toxic… One test came back negative for one toxin that would be present in harmful algal blooms [Kate Wynne, a marine mammal specialist for the University of Alaska Sea Grant Program] said. “That’s my leading hypothesis,” Wynne said of an environmental toxin as a cause… “we never will find out what killed those whales, in my mind.” Other test results also are pending, however. A muscle-tissue sample is being tested for the possibility of radionuclides from the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster… The deaths are an unusual occurrence, Wynne said. She said she’s never heard of anything similar occurring among large baleen whales in the U.S. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration also is looking into the deaths of a slightly larger number of whales over a larger area. NOAA is requesting the deaths to be designated nationally as an unusual mortality event… NOAA spokeswoman Julie Speegle said. Along with the dead whales, dead birds including murres and shearwaters were reported… Tests showed the shearwaters had a high parasite count and were starving, Wynne said.
KUCB, Jul 27, 2015: Dead Fish, Wildlife In Aleutians… Scientists have been receiving reports of dead and dying mammals, birds and small fish in the Aleutian Islands. They think the killer might be toxic algae… “They’re a suspected cause for some of the mass deaths we’ve been seeing–the 10 fin whales that were spotted dead off of Kodiak Island; I know Adak has seen a lot of dead birds, King Cove, I believe (birds in) False Pass have been washing up. We don’t know the cause of that yet either,” [Melissa Good with University of Alaska Fairbanks] said… “No one that I know of is sure what happened.” This week, Good has been taking water samples around Unalaska and shipping them off to labs for full analysis… She’s also sampled the stomach and flesh of a Steller’s sea lion that washed up dead… Good said people in the Aleutians should be wary of eating clams or mussels… “We just don’t know if they’re going to be toxic or not,” she said.
Univ. of Alaska Fairbanks, July 2015: Pursuing Cause of Death in Gulf of Alaska Whales… Over the next six weeks more large whale mortalities were reported by mariners and pilots. Kate Wynne and Bree Witteveen began gathering NOAA Stranding Network data… a total of 10 fin whale and 8 humpback mortalities have been documented… Both whale species feed in groups on small fish and invertebrates, filtering them with their baleen… Wynne, Witteveen, and other biologists have pursued many possible human-influenced and natural causes, but as of mid-July the cause of death remains unknown… Biotoxins caused by warm water–induced harmful algal blooms are a possibility, although tissue from the sampled fin whale tested for domoic acid came back negative… Scientists have followed up on other possible causes… even radionuclides from the Fukushima reactor…. To pursue the radionuclide possibility Wynne submitted a muscle tissue sample from a dead fin whale for Cesium 137 analysis, with results pending… Wynne and Witteveen complimented the professional network of bird, fish, and mammal biologists in the Gulf of Alaska and the Bristol Bay–Bering Sea area, who have reported unusual events since the mortalities.