Point Reyes: Blue whale died from vessel collision

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By Bay City News Service with update from KTVU

Scientists confirmed a blue whale carcass that washed ashore Monday a few miles south of Limantour Beach in the Point Reyes National Seashore died as a result of a vessel collision. 

A full necropsy was performed Tuesday morning according to the Marine Mammal Center. 

"Blue whales are the largest animal on earth and an endangered species, so to learn that this individual's death is a result of a ship strike is particularly unfortunate," says Barbie Halaska, a researcher at The Marine Mammal Center. "Understanding and documenting the extent of the injuries through a necropsy allows us to share this information with decision-makers to help find solutions to prevent these incidents in the future." 

Scientists discovered multiple broken vertebrae and severe tissue hemorrhaging along the length of the whale's back. The 62-foot female juvenile carcass had a severed spine and bruised ribs and to its lower jaw. The whale was halfway through the stages of decomposing based on the quality of the skin and internal tissues. 

It is only the 10th blue whale carcass the team of scientists has responded to in their 43-year history according to Halaska        

The Marine Mammal Center's rescue department first received public reports Saturday evening of the carcass floating two miles east of the Farallon Islands.

19 scientists participated in the necropsy. They were from The Marine Mammal Center, California Academy of Sciences, Point Reyes National Seashore and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). 

The Marine Mammal Center has responded to eight whale carcasses this year. Ship strikes and entanglement in fishing hear are leading causes of whale mortality.

Approximately 2,800 blue whales live off the California coast and are seen in summer and fall in the Gulf of the Farallones and the Cordell Bank national marine sanctuaries.