An adult male fin whale's carcass was discovered on the bow section of a container ship arriving in a Southern California harbor late Tuesday night. The visible bruising on the carcass indicated that the whale was struck by a ship.
"There was little odor, and the skin was in pristine condition," researcher Alisa Schulman-Janiger wrote on the American Cetacean Society-Los Angeles Chapter Facebook page. "We couldn't verify its length, since much of this whale remained hidden under the dock."
In another post on the Facebook page, Schulman-Janiger wrote that the whale was likely struck and killed Tuesday.
NOAA Fisheries biologist Christina Fahy, who inspected the carcass, told Pete Thomas Outdoors that the whale was alive when the ship—identified by the Daily Breeze as the Evergreen container ship Ever Daity from Coco Solo, Panama—hit it.
Next to blue whales, the up-to-80-foot-long fin whales are the second-largest marine mammal species on Earth.
This whale likely measures between 50 and 60 feet long; measurements will be taken when it is towed out to sea from Los Angeles Harbor, according to Schulman-Janiger. The whale will also be photographed, and the images will be forwarded to researchers who may be able to identify the individual whale, she said.
The endangered whales, which can weigh up to 80 tons, have been spotted off the coast of the South Bay and Long Beach this winter. Whale-watchers have seen many of the leviathans feeding on krill in the undersea Redondo Canyon.
"With so many fin whales feeding off Southern California in recent weeks, this sad news should not come as too big of a surprise," Schulman-Janiger said.
In an effort to prevent ship strikes like this one, the International Maritime Organization, which governs shipping worldwide, announced that it would adjust shipping lanes in 2013 to protect endangered whales along the coast.
Five whales were killed by ship strikes in 2010 along the Northern California Coast. In 2007, four blue whales were killed by ship strikes in and around the Santa Barbara Channel.
In December 2012, a fin whale carcass washed up on a Malibu beach. Experts said this fin whale's death was also the result of a ship strike.