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The 13th gray whale to wash up on a San Francisco Bay Area beach. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

At least 70 dead gray whales have washed up on the west coast this year, according to a statement made Friday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries, ABC reports.

Why it matters: The death toll is higher than we presently know. These stranded whales represent only 10% of how many have actually died, per research biologist John Calambokidis. NOAA has launched a scientific investigation into the cause of the deaths, describing it as an "unusual mortality event."

Catch up quick:

  • 37 whales have beached in California, with more than 12 concentrated on the San Francisco Bay. Other locations include Oregon, Alaska and Washington.
  • Gray whale death rates this high have only been seen once, in 2000 — with the most stranded whales found in Alaska (45) and California (61).
  • There is a chance the gray whale population can rebound, if environmental and food availability conditions are right.

What they're saying: “It is very unusual. A normal year for us, we have maybe between one and three [dead] gray whales in this season. This is triple that already, in less than a two-month period," Chief research pathologist at the Marine Mammal Center Pádraig Duignan told the Washington Post, on stranded whales in California's Bay area.

The bottom line: Researchers are trying to determine if the cause of death is related to warming temperatures in the Arctic, other environmental factors, disease or human activities like ship strikes.

Go deeper: Climate change could make it harder for blue whales to find food

Go deeper

Updated 10 mins ago - Politics & Policy

In photos: The Biden and Harris inauguration

President Biden and first lady Jill Biden watch a fireworks show on the National Mall from the Truman Balcony at the White House on Wednesday night. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

President Biden signed his first executive orders into law from the Oval Office on Wednesday evening after walking in a brief inaugural parade to the White House with First Lady Jill Biden and members of their family. He was inaugurated with Vice President Kamala Harris at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday morning.

Why it matters: Many of Biden's day one actions immediately reverse key Trump administration policies, including rejoining the Paris Agreement and the World Health Organization, launching a racial equity initiative and reversing the Muslim travel ban.

Republicans pledge to set aside differences and work with Biden

President Biden speaks to Sen. Mitch McConnell after being sworn in at the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday. Photo: Erin Schaff-Pool/Getty Images

Several Republicans praised President Biden's calls for unity during his inaugural address on Wednesday and pledged to work together for the benefit of the American people.

Why it matters: The Democrats only have a slim majority in the Senate and Biden will likely need to work with the GOP to pass his legislative agenda.

The Biden protection plan

Joe Biden announces his first run for the presidency in June 1987. Photo: Howard L. Sachs/CNP/Getty Images

The Joe Biden who became the 46th president on Wednesday isn't the same blabbermouth who failed in 1988 and 2008.

Why it matters: Biden now heeds guidance about staying on task with speeches and no longer worries a gaffe or two will cost him an election. His staff also limits the places where he speaks freely and off the cuff. This Biden protective bubble will only tighten in the months ahead, aides tell Axios.