Fishery officers are in Boundary Bay today (Wednesday), after a dead grey whale was found in the waters off Centennial Beach.
Paul Cottrell, a South Surrey resident and assistant marine mammal co-ordinator for Fisheries and Oceans Canada, told Peace Arch News the animal – which he located Tuesday while out checking on grey whales – is a large female, measuring 13 to 16 metres.
No obvious signs of trauma can be seen, Cottrell said from aboard the fishery vessel.
Members of the marine mammal response program are securing the animal and working with DFO and the Canadian Coast Guard hovercraft to tow the animal for necropsy, he added.
According to a May 31 Fisheries and Oceans Canada report, five grey whales have been found dead along the B.C. coast in the past two months – including three on the shores of Haidi Gwaii – “which is an upward trend from recent years.”
Fisheries and Oceans Canada is working with its counterparts in the U.S and Mexico to examine the potential cause of the deaths, which are occurring on the whales’ spring migration north to summer feeding grounds, the report states.
Strandings began Jan. 1, and as of May 20, there had been 60 in the U.S., approximately 73 in Mexico and five in Canada.
Last month, two grey whales – a mother and calf – became stranded in Boundary Bay, also near Centennial Beach, during low tide. The marine mammal response team assisted the pair back to deeper waters.
Also last month, for a span of a couple of weeks, a pair of grey whales were spotted almost daily in Semiahmoo Bay, catching the attention of many waterfront visitors. They were seen within 100 metres of the White Rock Pier.
Fisheries research scientist Thomas Doniol-Valcroze told PAN at the time that the whales’ appearance is “perfectly normal” for this time of year. They make frequent “pit stops” to find food and refuel, he said.
According to the May 31 report, the grey whale is listed as a “species of Special Concern under Canada’s Species at Risk Act,” and where possible, necropsies are conducted to both try and identify cause of death as well as if there are threats to the rest of the population.
All five grey whales found dead in B.C. so far have been necropsied or sampled by the marine mammal response team and the province, the report states.
“All the animals indicated poor body condition, with additional results expected over the next month.”
Cottrell said a necropsy on the whale found Wednesday will likely be done on Thursday (June 6).