PACIFICA, Calif. >> A beached humpback whale was discovered south of San Francisco, marking the second dead whale to wash ashore in less than three weeks.
The 32-foot female whale is within sight of the carcass of a sperm whale that was discovered dead in mid-April. This is the third dead whale found in the San Francisco Bay Area this year.
Marine Mammal Center spokeswoman Laura Sherr said Sue Pemberton from the California Academy of Sciences is at the beach to assess whether they would be able to examine the animal. Sherr says the carcass is in the waves so it is unlikely that a team would be able to safely perform a necropsy Tuesday.
Officials say the whale was spotted four or five days ago floating in the surf.
Last month, a 50-foot sperm whale washed ashore at Mori Point on the south end of Sharp Park State Beach in Pacifica.
Biologists were unable to determine the cause of death for that whale, however.
Researchers found no broken bones in the first whale. There was some hemorrhaging in the muscles, but not enough to clearly indicate blunt force trauma. The whale was emaciated, but had some squid beaks in its stomach, indicating it had been eating.
The two strandings in the last few weeks could be a coincidence. Strong onshore winds in the area could also force carcasses onto the beach. .
“We’re hopeful that conditions on the beach improve, allowing us to conduct a necropsy on this animal, as every stranding represents an opportunity for us to learn more about this species and our ocean environment,” said Lauren Rust, Research Biologist at the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito. “There tend to be peaks in whale strandings in the spring and fall, aligned with the migration and calving season.”
Humpback whales are one of the most frequently seen whales in California. They regularly migrate through California waters and are visible by boat offshore. Humpback whales are listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act.
In January, a rare pygmy sperm whale died after beaching itself in Marin County, which is about 50 miles from Pacifica. Investigators said it had likely gotten sick and was too weak to swim.