Boat strikes whale off Point Reyes

06/28/2012

A rare fin whale weighing around 50 tons was killed last Thursday when it was struck by a vessel off the coast of Point Reyes, fracturing its spine, ribs and other bones and damaging soft tissue, Point Reyes National Seashore spokesperson John Dell’Osso said. The deceased whale, a 47-foot juvenile, has since washed up on a remote beach in a southern corner of the seashore. Scientists hiked more than 90 minutes to the whale’s location on Thursday in order to begin a necropsy on the animal, but could not complete it due to its position in the surf zone. Seashore scientists and veterinary staff from The Marine Mammal Center returned at low tide just after dawn on Friday to conduct a full post mortem. “Normally what’s done is that scientists from different organizations and agencies will collect tissue samples, to see if the animal was in ill health beforehand,” Mr. Dell’Osso said. “[They want to] get as much information as they can about these creatures — the fin whale is pretty rare. They’re out there, but we don’t see them very often.” Mr. Dell’Osso said the whale will be allowed to decay naturally as waves break up the remains and the tides take it out to sea. He added that it was fortunately not on a heavily trafficked beach because “it would be an awful thing to walk by.” Dr. Frances Gulland, senior scientist at The Marine Mammal Center, commented in a statement that the incident was a dramatic example of negative human impact on marine mammals. “The spine of this whale was completely fractured as a result of a ship strike and it is very sad that this animal’s life came to an end in this manner,” she said.