The head of a gray whale surfaces to breathe

Something is killing gray whales. Is it a sign of oceans in peril?

The head of a gray whale surfaces to breathe
R. Earls

SAN IGNACIO, Mexico — For thousands of years, the gray whales of the eastern Pacific have undertaken one of the longest annual migrations of any mammal — starting in the cold waters of the Arctic, then down past the densely populated coasts and beaches of California before finally finding refuge in the warm, shallow estuaries of Mexico’s Baja California Peninsula. Only to turn around and head back north a few weeks later.

Starting in December 2018, this magnificent migration took a fatal turn.

The bodies of California gray whales began washing up along the protected inlets of Baja, where gray whales come every spring to nurse their young and mate. The first to die was a young male, beached along the shore of Isla Arena, in Guerrero Negro Lagoon. Two days later, the decomposing body of a young female was found sloshing in waves along a beach in Ojo de Liebre Lagoon, just a few miles south of the first.

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