Endangered Fin Whale Washes Up on Shore, Likely Killed by Blunt Force Trauma Due to Ship Traffic

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On Friday, the U.S. Coast Guard spotted a whale carcass in the water a few miles from the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.

The whale washed ashore Friday night at Fort Funston, and on Saturday a necropsy was performed by The Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, that suggested — based on bruising and hemorrhaging around the neck vertebrae — that the whale died from being hit by a ship.

The creature was identified as a fin whale, which is an endangered species and the second-largest species of whale. It was a 46-foot-long young male in average condition and had a stomach full of food (krill) at the time of its death.

“By investigating deaths like this, we can learn more about how human activity and changing environmental trends are impacting large whales,” Barbie Halaska, the Necropsy Manager for The Marine Mammal Center, said, according to KPIX-TV.

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“Ship strikes are the biggest threat fin whales face, so this investigation helps us understand the challenges these animals face and inform decision-makers so we can safely share the ocean with marine wildlife.”

In its nearly 50-year history, the center has investigated six fin whale deaths and determined that five were due to ship strikes.

This particular specimen is the fifth whale to be found dead in or near the area in the past month. The others were gray whales, and the majority of them were determined to have died after being hit by ships.

The Bay is a very busy area, especially as the pandemic has impacted the traffic even more, and The Marine Mammal Center says that a shift in the currents has driven the whales’ food source close to the shoreline in the bay, leading to an uptick in whale-ship collisions.

“During the necropsy at Muir Beach, scientists discovered significant bruising and hemorrhaging to muscle around the whale’s jaw and neck vertebrae consistent with blunt force trauma due to ship strike,” the center said of the fourth whale found, according to KRON-TV.

“The team identified the gray whale as a 41-foot adult female that was minimally decomposed based on the quality of the internal organs. Experts also noted the whale was in good body condition based on the blubber layer and internal fat levels.”

The number of whales found dead in the recent past is unusual, and there are movements in place to both further examine why there are so many whales coming into the area and find ways to minimize whale-ship collisions.

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“Our team hasn’t responded to this number of dead gray whales in such a short span since 2019 when we performed a startling 13 necropsies in the San Francisco Bay Area,” Dr. Pádraig Duignan with The Marine Mammal Center said.

According to KION-TV, of the five dead whales discovered, three appear to have been hit by ships, the outlet reported.

The Monterey Marine Sanctuary has also requested that ships waiting to enter the bay wait farther out to avoid hitting the whales.

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Amanda holds an MA in Rhetoric and TESOL from Cal Poly Pomona. After teaching composition and logic for several years, she's strayed into writing full-time and especially enjoys animal-related topics.
As of January 2019, Amanda has written over 1,000 stories for The Western Journal but doesn't really know how. Graduating from California State Polytechnic University with a MA in Rhetoric/Composition and TESOL, she wrote her thesis about metacognitive development and the skill transfer between reading and writing in freshman students.
She has a slew of interests that keep her busy, including trying out new recipes, enjoying nature, discussing ridiculous topics, reading, drawing, people watching, developing curriculum, and writing bios. Sometimes she has red hair, sometimes she has brown hair, sometimes she's had teal hair.
With a book on productive communication strategies in the works, Amanda is also writing and illustrating some children's books with her husband, Edward.
Austin, Texas
Languages Spoken
English und ein bißchen Deutsch
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Faith, Animals, Cooking