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‘No conclusive cause of death’ from necropsy of grey whale found in Boundary Bay

Crews work to secure a dead grey whale to a Coast Guard hovercraft.
Crews work to secure a dead grey whale to a Coast Guard hovercraft. Paul Cottrell / DFO

Scientists with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) say they’ve been unable to determine an obvious cause of death for a grey whale that was found Tuesday night in Boundary Bay.

The mature, 14-metre adult female was the sixth grey whale to turn up dead in B.C. this year, and one of nearly 150 to die between Mexico and Alaska in the last six months, according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

READ MORE: Grey whale washes up in Boundary Bay, sixth of the species to die in B.C. this year

Earlier in May, two grey whales had to be rescued after becoming stranded in Boundary Bay.

NOAA
NOAA NOAA

DFO marine mammal coordinator Paul Cottrell said officials conducted a necropsy of the whale on Thursday, but found “no conclusive cause of death.”

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“There was no evidence of vessel strike and the crab gear [found with the carcass] was not associated with the death of the animal and the animal had a full full stomach of invertebrates, so it had been feeding actively,” he said.
Grey whale strandings between Dec. 17, 2018 and May 27, 2019.
Grey whale strandings between Dec. 17, 2018 and May 27, 2019. NOAA

READ MORE: 5th dead grey whale washes up on Haida Gwaii, DFO investigating

Cotrell added that the whale had a thicker fat layer than others the DFO had recently examined.

He said tissue samples from the necropsy are now being sent to labs in the U.S. and Canada for analysis, a process that could take weeks or months.

WATCH: Danger for grey whales rescued in Boundary Bay may not be over

Danger for grey whales rescued in Boundary Bay may not be over
Danger for grey whales rescued in Boundary Bay may not be over

As for the mystery of the pacific coast whale die-off, Cotrell said the DFO continues to work with partners in Mexico and the NOAA.

He said there are a number of theories as to what is causing the deaths, including concern about a lack of food leading to the whales having compromised body conditions for their annual northward migration.

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There are an estimated 27,000 grey whales in the eastern north Pacific Ocean, according to the NOAA. The animals winter in Mexico where they feed and breed before migrating to Alaska where they build fat over the summer.