At least 13 southern right whales have been found dead along Patagonia’s coast in Argentina since the end of September. Scientists think poisoning from red tides, a toxic algal bloom, could be the cause.
The animals died in the Nuevo Gulf, an area that is a sanctuary and breeding ground for whales, the Institute for the Conservation of Whales (ICB) said.
Authorities have started performing autopsies on the whales and have begun testing the water and shellfish to determine the presence of possible biotoxins linked to the growth of red tides, whale program coordinator Agustina Donini said.
The pigment of algal blooms can make the surface of the water look red, giving the phenomenon the name “red tide.”
Fabian Gandon, mayor of the town of Puerto Piramides, told local reporters that the Nuevo and San Jose gulfs had experienced “an unusual increase” in red tides. Climate change causes increased ocean water temperatures, which could lead to increased growth of harmful microorganisms.
Local residents have been advised not to consume shellfish, which can store the toxins created by the algal blooms.