Posted by: The ocean update | October 8, 2015

Fremont : Necropsy results confirm that gray whale was struck by ship (California, USA)

October 8th, 2015 (Katrina Cameron).¬†FREMONT — Necropsy results confirmed that a juvenile gray whale found washed ashore last month near the Alameda Creek Trail in Coyote Hills Regional Park was malnourished and struck by a ship, officials said.

The report, released Tuesday by the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, showed that the 21-foot female whale was found Sept. 24 with shallow propeller strike injuries to its dorsal area, consistent to a ship strike earlier in September in Oakland, said spokesman Giancarlo Rulli.

The final cause of the gray whale’s death remained unknown as of Tuesday afternoon, but a few factors may have contributed to her death.

Although the whale was hit by a ship, the report showed that the strike penetrated the blubber area without causing any bleeding or breaking any bones, Rulli said. The whale was immensely emaciated and had a spine abnormality, which may have limited her ability to forage for food and making her more susceptible to being hit by a vessel.

The California Academy of Sciences obtained a sample of the whale’s cranial vertebrae, where the spine meets the skull, and will research it after it decomposes, he said.

“By conducting a necropsy on a whale that washes up on our shores, we’re able to expand our baseline data to better understand these marine mammals,” said Dr. Shawn Johnson, Director of Veterinary Science at the Marine Mammal Center. “Even when we are not able to determine a final cause of death, our research provides insights into the overall health of these animals and their ocean environment, including any human impacts that may play a role.”

The Marine Mammal Center has responded to eight stranded whales this year. At least three of those whales appeared to have been struck by a ship and one died of entanglement with fishing gear.

To avoid whale deaths, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recommends that all water vessels of 300 gross tons or more in the area reduce speeds to a maximum of 10 knots between May and November, when whales gather and feed, according to the center.

Anyone who sees a sick or injured marine mammal is encouraged to call the Marine Mammal Center at 415-389-SEAL.

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