Two whale beachings have taken place on the beach in Pacifica, California, within sight of each other. Pacifica is just 15 miles south of San Francisco, California. The first to wash up was a young male sperm whale and occurred on April 14. This latest is a young female humpback whale. The young 50-foot sperm whale landed on the beach at Mori Point, while the humpback whale washed ashore just down the way at Sharp Point. The Coast Guard had noted the carcass of the 32-foot female humpback floating off the coast earlier in the week.
A Sight to See
Many people travel to the area to see the whale beachings and wonder at their size and what caused them to die and wash ashore. With two whales being beached so close in time and proximity, people are left to wonder if there is serious cause for concern, such as a major disease or other problem that is causing premature deaths of the whales. On a related note, there has also been an unusually high number of California sea lions coming ashore sick and emaciated.
Scientists at the Marine Mammal Center, in nearby Sausalito, California, state that although it seems odd, the whale beachings really aren’t that unusual. The Bay area of San Francisco and the coast of California are prime migration routes of travel for many whale species as they travel from the cold waters of Alaska to the warm waters off Mexico during the spring and fall.
Searching for a Cause for Whale Beachings
Scientists at the Marine Mammal Center were able to travel to the beach to perform a necropsy on the male sperm whale, but were unable to determine the cause of death. Samples from the animal will require further testing to see if a cause can be found. Lauren Rust from the Marine Mammal Center stated that the sperm whale was thin and emaciated and was probably ill. Although whale beachings of sperm whales is somewhat rare, it isn’t unprecedented. The last one found in the area was in 2008 and the cause of death was 450 pounds of garbage that the animal had swallowed.
Scientists plan to perform a necropsy on the most recent whale, the female humpback, to try to determine the cause of death when ocean conditions allow as it is currently in the waves making it impossible to work. They hope the tide will take the water far enough out to allow them to work. Sue Pemberton of the California Academy of Sciences, in San Francisco, said that there is no belief that there is an epidemic of any kind taking place in the ocean and that these two whale beachings are just a coincidence. The wind along that strand of beach is strong and lends itself to being a place for garbage and dead animals to wash up.