Endangered fin whale died after ship strike, investigation determines

(Image courtesy of NOAA)

Experts concluded Saturday that an endangered fin whale that washed ashore in San Francisco died due to injuries sustained from a ship strike.

The whale carcass was spotted at sea on Friday by the U.S. Coast Guard and landed in Fort Funston in San Francisco.

Researchers from The Marine Mammal Center, the California Academy of Sciences, and U.C. Santa Cruz determined the whale experienced blunt force trauma to its neck. The Marine Mammal Center team identified the whale as a 46-foot juvenile male that was moderately decomposed based on the quality of the internal organs.

In 46 years the Marine Mammal Center has treated six fin whales, five of which died from trauma from ships. The species is the second largest type of whale.

“By investigating deaths like this, we can learn more about how human activity and changing environmental trends are impacting large whales,” Barbie Halaska, necropsy manager for the center, said in a statement. “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.”

Members of the public are encouraged to report any sightings of dead whales or whales in distress to the center’s rescue hotline at (415) 289-7325.

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