West Coast gray whale strandings declared an Unusual Mortality Event: Media teleconference May 31

UPDATED: May 31, 2019. Audio file of press conference added to "Resources" section below.
May 31, 2019 NOAA Fisheries has declared the elevated rate of gray whale strandings on the West Coast in 2019 an Unusual Mortality Event (UME), triggering a scientific investigation into the cause.
Stranded dead gray whale at Leadbetter Point State Park, Washington, in early April. A necropsy by Portland State University’s Northern Oregon/Southern Washington Marine Mammal Stranding Program and Cascadia Research Collective found that it was unusually thin.

As of May 31, about 70 gray whales have stranded on the coasts of California, Oregon, Washington and Alaska so far this year, the most since 2000, when more than 100 whales stranded in what was also determined to be a UME. British Columbia and Mexico have also recorded gray whale strandings. The eastern North Pacific gray whale population that migrates along the Pacific Coast was last estimated at about 27,000 animals.


Teleconference for news media on NOAA Fisheries’ declaration of increased West Coast gray whale strandings as a UME. NOAA Fisheries and Oceans Canada will also be represented.


Friday, May 31, 2019, 3:00 p.m. ET (Noon Pacific/11 a.m. Alaska)


Dial-in: 1-800-619-3530 or 517-308-9155
Passcode: WHALE


  • Deborah Fauquier, veterinary medical officer, Office of Protected Resources
  • David Weller, research wildlife biologist, Southwest Fisheries Science Center
  • John Calambokidis, research biologist, Cascadia Research Collective
  • Sue Moore, biological oceanographer, University of Washington
  • Paul Cottrell, Marine Mammal Coordinator, Fisheries and Oceans Canada
  • Justin Viezbicke, California Stranding Coordinator, West Coast Region
  • Kristin Wilkinson, Northwest Stranding Coordinator, West Coast Region
  • Kate Savage, Stranding Health Specialist, Alaska Region

Media contact
Michael Milstein, NOAA Fisheries West Coast Region, 503-231-6268