A 52-foot fin whale’s body found washed up on a San Diego beach offered few clues as to how it died, experts told news outlets.
The fin whale, an endangered species, was found near Pacific Beach before 9:30 a.m. Sunday, Dec. 10, attracting a crowd of onlookers, police and firefighters, KNSD reported.
“What we can say is that it does not look like this animal died due to humans,” Kerri Danil, a research biologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, told KFMB.
Scientists saw no signs of ship strikes or other human-caused injuries, the station said.
“We did see signs or evidence of perhaps scavenging from sharks,” Danil told KGTV. “There were some rake marks in it, but nothing that would have killed this animal.”
An investigation into the whale’s death has been opened, the station reported.
“We are here to learn about their life history, how they live their lives and why they die,” Danil told KGTV.
Lifeguards using loudspeakers warned onlookers to stay back as the huge whale rolled in the surf, KNSD reported.
“Super sad,” Cynthia Polis, a nearby resident, told the station. “We’ve lived here for a long time. This is the first time we’ve ever seen this so it’s heartbreaking.”
Construction equipment later pushed the whale carcass back into the ocean, KFMB reported.
Fin whales are the second-largest cetaceans next to blue whales, according to the NOAA.
They can grow up to 85 feet long and weigh up to 80 tons, the NOAA said. Fin whales live for up to 90 years. Their population was severely cut by whaling in the 1900s.
Threats to fin whales include ship strikes, ocean noise, climate change and entanglement in fishing nets, the agency said.