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Experts probe for clues on whale’s death near shipping lanes at Port of Long Beach

A dead whale floated into the Port of Long Beach Wednesday evening, triggering a debate on what to do with the corpse until wildlife officials asked that it be kept nearby for future study, officials said.

The 20- to 30-foot whale was found before 7 p.m. near a container ship and Pier T, which is near a channel leading into the inner harbor, said Jake Heflin, a Long Beach Fire Department spokesman.

A fire boat crew was going to tow the whale beyond the breakwater but instead ended up tying it to a pier at the request of the U.S. Coast Guard and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Heflin said.

Those agencies will work to determine the whale’s cause of death, he said.

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Alisa Schulman-Janiger, a member of NOAA’s stranding team, arrived at the pier Thursday morning and said it appeared to be a fin whale but that she and other experts had to take a closer look to be sure.

If possible, they were going to inspect its dorsal fins to see if they recognize it as a fin whale and if so, if it was one they’ve encountered before. They would take tissue samples to get a snapshot of its diet and what pollutants it may have been exposed to in its travels. And they’ll try to determine whether its death was caused by a collision with a passing ship, she said.

The area where the whale was discovered doubles as a feeding ground and also a shipping lane for one of the West Coast’s busiest harbors.

The whale could still be seen floating by the pier Thursday morning.

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joseph.serna@latimes.com

Twitter: @JosephSerna


UPDATES:

2:30 p.m.: This article was updated with comments from a marine life expert.

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This article was originally published at 7 a.m.


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