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So many gray whales are dying off the U.S. West Coast that scientists and volunteers dealing with the putrid carcasses have an urgent request.
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Why More DC Men Are Dyeing Their Gray Hair | Washingtonian (DC)

The difference is that eastern North Pacific gray whales are the only baleen whales that feed primarily on the bottom of the ocean. As such, they are considered by many scientists the sentinels of ecosystem change. The Pacific grays feed in the shallow coastal shelf waters of the Arctic during the summer, where they scoop up mouthfuls of mud and siphon out benthic amphipods, tiny shrimp-like crustaceans, through their baleen.

The grayish barnacle-covered cetaceans, which can reach 45 feet in length, rely on the Arctic mud to supply them with enough calories for a 11,mile migration, the longest of any whale. The remarkable journey starts when the grays head south from November to January toward the warm lagoons of Baja California, where they breed and give birth. The nursing mothers leave their breeding grounds and migrate with their calves north past California from February to May.

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It is a perilous journey for the creatures, which generally do not eat as they make a beeline toward the cold, food-rich waters of the north. The mothers use enormous amounts of energy nursing their calves, which can consume as much as 50 gallons of milk a day. Scientists believe the trouble started under the Arctic ice pack.

The tiny crustaceans that the gray whales eat rely on algae that grows on the underside of the ice.

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When that algae dies, it sinks to the seafloor, where the mud-dwelling critters feast. The less ice there is, the less algae and, consequently, fewer crustaceans. For years, Earthjustice has worked to protect our ocean ecosystem by pushing for sustainably managed fisheries, safeguarding threatened marine species, and cutting carbon emissions, which warm and acidify ocean waters. Earlier this year, we had two court victories that forced federal agencies to uphold science and issue reasonable catch limits for dusky sharks and northern anchovies, two ecologically important species that help thread together the marine food web.

Yet the Trump administration is determined to weaken this powerful legal tool by proposing changes that prioritize dirty energy dominance over scientifically sound ecological protections. Politicians backed by dirty industry interests have also orchestrated more than legislative attacks on the Endangered Species Act in the last congressional session alone.

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On Capitol Hill, we are battling these endangered species rollbacks, as well as endorsing new protections for threatened species like the North Atlantic right whale. Now we need the political will to enact stronger protections for our oceans and our wildlife.

Read The New York Times column.

For additional information or images relating to this article, please contact: Kim Fulton-Bennett , kfb mbari. Research programs at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute MBARI encompass the entire ocean, from the surface waters to the deep seafloor, and from the coastal zone to the open sea.

The need to understand the ocean in all its complexity and variability drives MBARI's research and development efforts. June 24, Related news stories. September 16, — A new study shows how the amount of humpback song in Monterey Bay varies over days, months, and even years. June 24, — Gray whales are dying in large numbers along their Pacific Coast migration route.