A blue whale that washed ashore in the Point Reyes National Seashore was probably killed after colliding with a ship, Marine Mammal Center officials said.

Marine Mammal Center

Ship Likely Killed Blue Whale In North Bay

Tim Ryan
June 20, 2018 - 12:56 pm

An endangered blue whale that washed ashore at the Point Reyes National Seashore was likely killed from colliding with a vessel, scientists said on Wednesday.

The necropsy performed on the 62-foot-long, female whale revealed that blunt force trauma had severed her spine and caused severe hemorrhaging, according to a team of researchers from the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito and other institutions. 

Ship strikes are one of the leading threats to blue whales, the world's largest animals, researchers said. There are specific lanes for ships to follow and suggested speeds that are designed to increase safety for marine life, but accidents still occur. 

"It's really incredible to see these populations and these unique animals in our area, but we need to find ways to live with them, so that we can enjoy them in the future," said Shawn Johnson, the director of veterinary science at the center. 

The whale's remains drifted onto the beach on Monday after rescue staff had been alerted that her carcass was floating east of the Farallon Islands on Saturday evening. 

In a few years, the juvenile whale would have reached maturity and begun breeding. 

"It's a real tragedy unfortunately," said Barbie Halaska, a researcher from the Marine Mammal Center. 

The remains will be allowed to decompose naturally at the site of the postmortem, south of  Limantour Beach.