Yet another gray whale is apparently stuck in the shallow ocean waters near Stearns Wharf on the Santa Barbara waterfront. See the cetacean for yourself in this photo gallery, courtesy of William Lambert and the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History’s Ty Warner Sea Center.
The appearance of this whale – much like that of another whale that called the waterfront home in March – coincides with a report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) that confirms the odd behavior and multiple deaths of marine mammals in Southern California are part of an officially designated “Unusual Mortality Event.” In the past four weeks, 21 whales and dolphins have become stranded or been found dead in nearby beaches over the past four weeks, a number far higher than normal. The high tally means that a deeper investigation as to why is already being planned.
In a press release on Thursday, May 3, the S.B. Museum of Natural History’s assistant curator of vertebrate zoology Michelle Berman explained, “It is important that we understand unusual marine mammal mortality events because they can serve as a barometer of ocean health, and marine mammals can serve as sentinels of human health. It’s essential that a thorough investigation be made to determine whether the causes of the strandings are natural or related to human effects, and whether we can control the situation.”
So what do you do if you stumble upon a distressed marine mammal? Berman says that you should contact the proper agency. For dead whales or dolphins, call the museum at 682-471 ext. 156. For beached mammals, call the Santa Barbara Marine Mammal Center at 687-3255. If you happen to be in San Luis Obispo County, call the Marine Mammal Center at 415-289-3255 and if in Ventura, call the Ventura County Animal Regulation at 388-4344. Most importantly, don’t go near or touch the stranded marine mammals – it’s potentially very dangerous and it’s also highly illegal.
For more info, see nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/health.