Massive dead gray whale found in Half Moon Bay

Massive dead gray whale found in Half Moon Bay
A gray whale breaches off the coast of Long Beach in January2014. A dead gray whale similar to this one washed ashore Monday on a beach inHalf Moon Bay. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Another dead whale carcass washed up along the Northern California coastline this week.

The massive gray whale is believed to have come ashore Monday along an area of beach in Half Moon Bay. Scientists planned to examine the 40-foot whale Wednesday, KNTV reported.


The latest whale is one of at least four dead ones that have washed up along beaches in Northern California in recent weeks, said Laura Sherr, spokeswoman of the Marine Mammal Center. The center responds to an average of five whales strandings each year.

The recent whale strandings, Sherr said, are not abnormal.

"Because it is migration season there are more whales in the area, and we do usually see a peak in the late spring/early summer months -- April through June -- aligning with the migration," she said.

On Tuesday, crews in Pacifica worked to bury two rotting whale carcasses: a 42-foot adult female humpback whale found May 4 on the southern end of Sharp Park State Beach and a 48-foot sperm whale found April 14 at Mori Point.

Scientists were unable to determine the cause of death for either whale.

Blunt force trauma was found on the humpback whale, suggesting it was hit by a ship. But because the humpback suffered only one broken rib, scientists couldn't determine whether a ship strike was to blame for its death.

Ship strikes are the leading cause of death for whales, as well as fishing gear entanglement. Gray whales are mostly commonly hit by vessels off the coast of California.

Crew members aboard larger container ships are often unaware that they have hit a whale, according to the Marine Mammal Center. Ship strikes are likely underreported.

On April 18, a killer whale carcass was found at MacKerricher State Park near Fort Bragg. A cause of death could take several weeks to determine. The Noyo Center for Marine Science was planning to display its skeleton, Sherr said.

Miyoko Sakashita, oceans program director for the Center for Biological Diversity, recently said more efforts are needed to keep whales safe from ocean hazards.

"We need to do more to protect whales along the California coast before more of them show up dead on the beach," she said. "The latest whale to wash up in Pacifica showed signs of being struck by a ship and the last dead killer whale was tangled in fishing gear, two problems that should be addressed with better regulations."

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