Experts say dead humpback whale spotted on Half Moon Bay beach likely struck by ship

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Monday, August 29, 2022
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A dead humpback whale washed up at Manhattan Beach in Half Moon Bay on Sunday, which is just south of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel.

HALF MOON BAY, Calif. (KGO) -- A dead humpback whale washed up at Manhattan Beach in Half Moon Bay on Sunday, which is just south of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel.

The whale was first reported by beachgoers around 3 p.m., says the Marine Mammal Center.

Scientists at The Marine Mammal Center suspect the humpback whale died due to injuries "consistent with a ship strike."

A team of experts from the Center and partners at the California Academy of Sciences performed a necropsy, or animal autopsy, on the dead whale to determine its cause of death.

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"This humpback whale had an extensive contusion over her right chest area, a fractured first cervical vertebra and its skull was dislocated from the spinal column," said Dr. Pádraig Duignan, director of Pathology at The Marine Mammal Center in a news release. "These findings, combined with overall excellent body condition, strongly implicates blunt force trauma associated with a ship strike as this whale's cause of death."

During Monday's necropsy, scientists identified the humpback whale as a 49-foot adult female that was in a moderate stage of internal decomposition, based on the quality of the skin, internal tissues and organs. The team also noted the whale had ample blubber and fat reserves.

The Marine Mammal Center said it has responded to nine additional dead whale sightings since the beginning of this year, including two humpback whales.

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In a statement, the Center said: "While the findings of this whale necropsy are tragic, the information gathered from these whales is shared directly with the Center's partners and helps inform policy decisions that can protect habitat areas, change shipping lane speeds that intersect migration routes and allow experts to better understand shifting food sources for marine mammals in a warming ocean."

Humpback whales are currently on the endangered species list, with only 10% of their original population remaining, according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration fisheries.

The Center said that the public can play an important role in the conservation of whales by reporting sightings to itswebsite. To report a dead whale or whale in distress, call the Center's rescue hotline at 415-289-SEAL (7325).

All marine mammals are federally protected, and the public should not approach any whale, alive or dead.

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