Fin whale washes ashore in Bolinas

A third dead whale since Friday has washed ashore in the Bay Area, the latest being a fin whale found in Bolinas, Marine Mammal Center officials said Thursday.

The carcass of the 58-foot female fin whale washed ashore between Brighton and Agate beaches in Bolinas and was reported to the center on Tuesday.

The whale was stranded a half-mile from shore at the southern end of Duxberry Reef, and scientists from the Marine Mammal Center and California Academy of Sciences were on the scene Wednesday afternoon to make preliminary observations.

Extra precautions are being taken in response to the latest stranding because of the Duxberry Reef State Marine Conservation Area’s status as a highly protected resource area under state and federal law, according to center officials.

The Marine Mammal Center, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the California Academy of Sciences are developing a plan to perform a necropsy to determine the cause of death Friday.

Dr. Shawn Johnson, director of veterinary science at the Marine Mammal Center, said the death of a second endangered fin whale in a week is incredibly unfortunate.

A fin whale found offshore of Alameda County last Friday died due to a vessel collision, center officials said. A necropsy revealed fractures and dislocated vertebrae surrounded by massive hemorrhaging on both sides of the 45-foot juvenile female whale.

A 36-foot adult female gray whale carcass that washed ashore at Tennessee Valley Beach in Marin County also last Friday died due to severe entanglement.

The necropsy revealed linear lesions looped around the back of the neck and along both front flippers. The injuries are consistent with an entanglement.

Scientists also found two lacerations on the whale’s right side with multiple skull fractures consistent with a shop’s propeller. Those injuries likely were suffered after the whale’s death, center officials said.

Ship strikes and entanglement in fishing gear are the leading causes of whale mortality. The number of ship strikes likely is underreported because the ship’s crew may be unaware a strike occurred, Marin Mammal Center officials said.