Dead Whale Washes Up in Point Loma Cove

The carcass was first spotted near the San Diego Bay's mouth Saturday

 A dead whale has washed up at a Point Loma cove, bringing with it a host of unanswered questions about where it came from and how it died.

The roughly 60-foot whale was first spotted near the mouth of the San Diego Bay on Saturday, according to Susan Chivers, a research fisheries biologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Officials kept an eye on the dead animal as it moved closer and closer to shore. By late Sunday, tides pushed it onto Point Loma, not far from the wastewater treatment plant.

Chivers said a NOAA crew tried to reach the whale Monday morning, but while the tide was low, they weren’t able to get to it because the carcass was still floating.

At this point, scientists don’t know what type of whale it is because the body is too bloated, Chivers said. They may have to rely on a genetics assessment to find out. NOAA officials hope to take a closer look at it Tuesday during low tide.

Looking ahead, crews have two options: they can leave the beached whale where it is, or they can call in Coast Guard or Lifeguard boats to tow it away – a daunting task with so big an animal.

Plan A would include taking it to a place where scientists could perform a necropsy, according to Chivers. NOAA is working with other agencies to solidify a plan.

In 2011, scientists were faced with a similar dilemma when a 67-foot fin whale was beached in almost the same location.

In that situation, lifeguards towed the animal to Fiesta Island, where scientists performed a necropsy. Crews then took it out to sea and sank it to create what’s called a “whale fall.” That allowed scientists to watch the carcass decompose and see what kind of deep-sea ecosystem grew around it.

However, Chivers said whale falls are expensive and logistically challenging, so it’s unlikely this new whale will be used for such research.

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