Some scientists believe there may be too many whales for the population to sustain itself. Others say this explanation of “overcapacity” and “natural causes” overlooks the gantlet of hazards that grays now face — including ecosystem alteration, ship strikes, entanglement in fishing gear, plastics pollution, disease, ocean acidification and loss of kelp forests.
So far, the cause of the die-offs remains a mystery, though theories include starvation from lack of food, or a disease that mimics chronic wasting disease. Teams of scientists are investigating what the casualties mean for the gray whale population as a whole. But some also fear that the deaths could be part of a larger trend as animals struggle to adapt to climate change. Said Ferguson: The “gray whales are just one piece” to the environmental puzzle.