PACIFICA, Calif. — Scientists are working to find out what killed a gray whale that washed up on Tuesday near Linda Mar Beach in Pacifica, California.
It is the 10th gray whale to die in the Bay Area since March.
Experts were able to examine the whale and take some measurements, but it was too dangerous to do a full necropsy.
“The dead whale’s resting place straddles a rocky shoreline in an intertidal area making it unsafe for the Center’s necropsy team to attempt to perform a necropsy. The current storms and uncertain tidal conditions this week will play a role on when the expert team can investigate the carcass,” said Giancarlo Rulli, a spokesman for The Marine Mammal Center.
The center found that found that four of the whales died from malnutrition and four others died from ship strikes — including one whale that washed up on Ocean Beach in San Francisco last week. The cause of death is not yet known for a whale that washed ashore on April 30.
“This caught our attention and we need to better understand what is going on. The importance of investigating deaths is to figure out what bigger picture is,” Rulli said.
Once the necropsy is completed the whale will either be buried or allowed to decompose into the environment, as an “ecological boon to the habitat,” he said.
Gray whales are the one of the most frequently seen whales in California, according to The Marine Mammal Center. They migrate north in April and May from their breeding grounds in Baja California, Mexico to their feeding grounds in Alaska. They swim back south in December and January.
Experts have seen an increased number of whales in the San Francisco Bay this spring. Biologists have observed that some were in “poor body condition,” possibly “due to anomalous oceanic conditions” which have contributed to “shifting food sources.”
The whales can grow up to 45-feet long and weigh as much as 90,000 pounds. They were once in danger of extinction.
The population has grown to about 26,000 and they were taken off of the Endangered Species List in 1994.