NOAA Fisheries News Releases
October 9, 2011
Julie Speegle, 907-586-7032 w., 907-321-7032 c.
NOAA confirms two killer whales in Nushagak River are dead
Juneau, AK — NOAA Fisheries confirmed late Saturday that two of the three killer whales that have been in the Nushagak River during the past month have died. The third whale was observed Saturday afternoon swimming downriver in the vicinity of Portage Creek.
A biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service conducted an aerial survey Saturday afternoon. Based on a tip from a local resident who said he had seen a killer whale carcass near Portage Creek, the biologist was able to locate that carcass floating, and then another whale carcass a few miles downstream on the bank.
NOAA Biologist Barbara Mahoney said this morning that a boat survey will be conducted today in an effort to locate the remaining live killer whale.
Local residents say the three killer whales had been in the Nushagak River for at least three weeks. Scientists believe the killer whales succumbed to stress from being in the freshwater, outside their normal marine habitat.
After reports on Friday identified the whales in lower Nushagak River, above Portage Creek, officials flew a survey from Dillingham to New Stuyahok; however the killer whales were not found. Although the biologists hoped the killer he whales had moved into salt water, a survey was then planned for Saturday to further investigate the whales' location.
The carcasses will be secured to shore and NOAA Fisheries will lead an interagency team of veterinarians to perform a necropsy on the whales early this week. Once the necropsies are complete, NOAA Fisheries will coordinate with the communities for their placement.
If you encounter marine mammals, stay at least 100 yards away for your own safety, and to prevent harassment to the animals. It is illegal under the Marine Mammal Protection Act to harass marine mammals such as whales, which includes any action that would cause a behavior change in the animals.
If you happen to see a marine mammal in distress or stranded, please report it to NOAA Fisheries right away by calling the Marine Mammal Stranding Hotline at 877-925-7773.
NOAA's mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Visit us at http://www.noaa.gov or on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/usnoaagov. To learn more about NOAA Fisheries in Alaska, visit alaskafisheries.noaa.gov or: www.afsc.noaa.gov.