Ninth gray whale found dead on SF beach cause for ‘serious concern,’ expert says

A gray whale carcass found early Monday on a San Francisco beach marks the ninth dead whale found in the Bay Area in 2019, KRON reported.

The whale was found on Ocean Beach on the west coast of San Francisco next to Golden Gate Park and the Richmond and Sunset districts, KTVU reported.

A necropsy, or animal autopsy, on Tuesday determined the whale died as a result of being hit by a ship, The Marine Mammal Center said in a statement. The 41-foot gray whale, an adult femaie, showed signs of malnutrition.

“The death of nine gray whales in the San Francisco Bay Area this year is a cause for serious concern,” Dr. Padraig Duignan, chief research pathologist at The Marine Mammal Center, said in a statement, KNTV reported.

Duignan added the deaths reinforce “the need to continue to perform and share the results of these type of investigations with key decision-makers,” according to the station.

Four of the nine dead whales died of ship strikes and four died of malnutrition, KGO reported.

“Warming ocean conditions” have caused changes to the food supply for gray whales migrating north, causing problems with malnutrition and ill health, Duignan said, KTVU reported.

The number of gray whales stopping in San Francisco Bay during the annual migration has risen this year as a result, McClatchy previously reported.

That puts the whales in greater danger of ship strikes.

California gray whales, which can reach 39 feet long and weigh 60,000 pounds, are on their yearly 11,000-mile trek north from Mexico to Alaska.

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Don Sweeney has been a newspaper reporter and editor in California for more than 25 years. He has been a real-time reporter based at The Sacramento Bee since 2016.