Fin whale washes up in Bolinas after ship strike

06/14/2018

Almost a year to the day since a spectacular 79-foot blue whale washed up on Agate Beach, a 58-foot fin whale wound up on nearby Brighton Beach after meeting the same fate: death by ship strike. On May 22, the dead fin whale was spotted hung up on Duxbury Reef, according to a letter by Bolinas resident Kent Khtikian published in the Hearsay News last week. Researchers with the Marine Mammal Center and California Academy of Sciences found the whale’s skull, vertebrae and ribs fractured. It was one of two fin whales, which are among the fastest species in the ocean, that washed up in the Bay Area in the same week, bringing the total to five since March. The species is listed as endangered, with the population in the North Pacific at about 1,600. Several years ago, the Cordell Bank and Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuaries spearheaded efforts to alter shipping routes based on whale habitat and establish voluntary speed reductions outside San Francisco Bay between May and November. Greater Farallones Superintendent Maria Brown said around 45 percent of ships cooperated in 2017, up from 29 percent in 2015. By reducing speed to 10 knots from the usual 15 or 20, whale mortality rates go down significantly, even when one is hit. Mr. Khtikian wrote, “You may also want to bear in mind, when you are deciding to purchase a less costly import over a domestic-sourced product, that in addition to the perils that they pose to whales, the 16 largest ships emit as much sulfur oxides as all of the world’s 800 million motor vehicles.”