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Scientists finally figure out why hundreds of gray whales keep washing up dead along U.S. coasts


A dead grey whale (Eschrichtius robustus) on the beach near the town of San Juanico in Baja California Sur, Mexico. (Image credit: CampPhoto via Getty Images)

A strange series of mass deaths among gray whales in the northeastern Pacific Ocean may finally have an explanation, with scientists linking Arctic sea ice levels to the major die-off events. 

Three mortality events have struck gray whales (Eschrichtius robustus) living off the coast of North America since the 1980s, reducing the population by 15% to 25% each time, according to a new study. In total, more than 2,000 gray whales are known to have died. The first mass die-off took place between 1987 and 1989 and was the largest in magnitude, killing at least 700 whales. Reporting structures and survey efforts only expanded in the 1990s, however, meaning the number of strandings associated with this mortality event could be an underestimate, according to the study. The second took place between 1999 and 2000, killing 651 whales

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