Sunday, September 23, 2007

Third Blue Whale Found Dead
Yet another Blue whale has been found dead in the waters offshore southern California. This time, the whale was found floating belly-up in the Santa Barbara Channel and was then towed to shore to a beach at Point Mugu, where a necropsy was conducted. It was determined that the whale was killed by ship strike. The whale was male, about 60-feet long, and had multiple broken bones & ribs, as well as a smashed cranium. The Los Angeles Times reports that a great white shark attempted to attack one of the boats that towed the whale in. Other reports also say that sharks have been feeding on the whale carcass at sea.

As you can see in the photo as well as the video that accompanies this post, Blue whales often linger at the surface while they go through multiple, fairly slow breathing cycles before diving. This summer, there have been more Blue whales than usual in the Santa Barbara channel. When the whales rest in the shipping paths of large container ships, they may not be able to dive quickly enough to escape a strike.

While it's unknown whether disease or military-sonar disturbances played any additional roles, it does appear that all three deaths were the result of ship collisions. In addition to the Point Mugu whale, the Faria Beach whale (see earlier post), another Blue whale was found in the Long Beach Harbor and it likely arrived on the bow of a large container ship without the ship's knowledge. It's unfortunate that human activity has caused the loss of these whales because the Blue whale is an endangered species and each individual loss may have consequences for the future population.