Cause for Whale Deaths Still Unknown

Kayla Desroches/KMXT

Whale mortalities near Kodiak Island in May led to a string of tests on one of the better preserved carcasses to detect just what caused those deaths. Kate Wynne, a Marine mammal specialist with the University of Alaska in Kodiak says, so far, they haven’t found anything conclusive.

She says the fin whale tested negative for domoic acids and they’re currently waiting on two other tests.

“One for paralytic shellfish poisoning and the other for casein 137, which is a radionuclide. It’s an indicator of radiation that would be from Fukushima or something similar,” says Wynne. “And we don’t expect that that would be the cause of their death, but we’re just checking all possible sources of potential mortality.”)

She adds that more whales have washed up since the first sightings.

“We’ve been documenting continued arrival or landing of whale carcasses up and down the coast for the last month and half,” Wynne says. “And the good news is that there are no new ones showing up that are fresh, indicating that they’re not still dying. Some have floated up and come ashore that are really old, so they died about the same time back in May.”

She says the public’s participation has been helpful and asks that people call her if they see odd behavior like seizures from seals or sea lions or mass die-off of any species from fish to birds. She says in the case of such a sighting, dial 486-1517.

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