Posted by: The ocean update | April 12, 2015

Whale killed in a Port of Los Angeles vessel collision under study at Cabrillo Beach (California, USA)

fin-whale-stroken-Los-AngelesApril 12th, 2015 (Sandy Mazza). A dead 56-foot male fin whale found floating in the Port of Los Angeles was under study Sunday on the northern edge of Cabrillo Beach in San Pedro.

Diane Alps, a local researcher and programs director at Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, learned about the whale on Friday after port workers saw it floating in the harbor and had it towed to shore.

“It was in relatively good condition on Friday,” said Alps, who was studying the animal Sunday afternoon with about a dozen other scientists. “It was towed to the Cabrillo Beach Youth Camp for a necropsy today. It’s bloated with gases now.”

As they worked, Alps warned newcomers that the oozing whale oil would stain their shoes and clothing, and “the closer you get, the worse the smell is.”

Researchers in collaboration with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Fisheries Service determined that the whale died as a result of blunt force trauma — likely a vessel collision, Alps said.

Fin whales are the second largest species of whale, and they are spotted year round off the coast, where they feed on krill and small fish.

“They’re an endangered species so it’s always devastating to have a loss like this,” Alps said. “But now we can study it and a lot of information will be acquired.”

In February 2013, a male fin whale died after it was struck by a container ship on its way into the port.

Cascadia Research Collective and other marine mammal researchers across the coast have been studying whale-ship strikes for years. The problem grew when four blue whales were killed by ships in 2007 in and around the Santa Barbara Channel. Three years later, five whales were killed along the north-central coast.

New shipping lanes were imposed in June 2013 in an attempt to keep vessels away from known whale feeding and migration areas.

At the time, John Calambokidis, a research biologist and founder of marine mammal research group Cascadia Research Collective who has been studying whale-ship strikes for years, said the new changes are a good first step to preventing the unintended death of endangered whales.

“For the first time, whales are being factored in,” Calambokidis said. “We have quite a long way to go in terms of changes we can make to reduce ship strikes.”

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