Fifth beached whale discovered in Alaska

Another gray whale was found dead along the Alaska shoreline on Tuesday. A beached whale was discovered in Chignik Bay, marking the fifth gray whale found dead in 2019.

NOAA Fisheries has declared the high-rate of gray whale strandings an Unusual Mortality Event, which is defined as an unexpected event involving a significant die-off that demands immediate response.

NOAA held a teleconference today where representatives addressed the elevated rate of beached gray whales and what their plans are moving forward.

"Typically in the time period from January 1st until the end of May, we see between 0 and 3 dead gray whales," Julie Speegle, a spokesperson for NOAA Alaska Region, said. "The situation with the dead gray whales washing ashore is certainly concerning and we are keeping an eye on it."

Dave Weller, a research wildlife biologist for Southwest Fisheries Science Center spoke about what the plans are moving forward.

"The number one priority is learning as much as we can from the stranded animals and trying to understand what is happening with them. And then our monitoring will continue, we will do another abundance estimate to see whether there are any population level signal we can detect in numbers and we will also be following calf productions."

NOAA officials say more than 70 gray whales have washed up on the west coast of the United States in 2019, the most since the year 2000.