Researchers analyzing whale carcass found in San Francisco Bay

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Researchers towed the dead whale to shore yesterday after it was discovered floating in the bay.
The Marine Mammal Center

A whale carcass was discovered floating in the San Francisco Bay between Alcatraz and Fort Mason on April 20, and marine researchers are performing a necropsy today, April 21.

Shortly after the dead whale was reported, researchers at the Sausalito-based Marine Mammal Center received authorization from the National Marine Fisheries Service to investigate, communications director Jim Oswald told the Guardian. Three Marine Mammal Center researchers ventured out in a Coast Guard cutter and towed the whale to a location north of the Richmond Bridge, where they are examining the carcass today.  Dr. Frances Gulland, Director of Veterinary Science at The Marine Mammal Center, is one of the researchers, pictured in the photo above.

It was a juvenile gray whale, approximately 25 feet long and an estimated 1 to 2 years old, Oswald said. There has been no evidence so far of external trauma, usually the sign of a ship strike, but they are still determining whether internal trauma occurred. Researchers are also taking a close look at its stomach contents to see if it might have been impacted by swallowing junk floating around at sea. “Ingested marine debris is a hazard for these animals,” Oswald said, recalling the case of a whale found off the coast of Washington that died after ingesting 450 pounds of netting.

A full report on the examination will not be available for several months, Oswald noted, since samples must be sent out to labs for a toxicology analysis.

The Guardian has reported on several environmental issues impacting whales, including shipping noise traffic and marine debris.