It's whale season again, both in the Bay and along the NorCal coast, and unfortunately that also means it's dead whale season — and a deceased gray whale washed ashore at Crissy Field on Wednesday morning.
As KPIX reports, the whale was promptly towed across the Bay to Angel Island where it will be necropsied by the Marine Mammal Center. The whale was first spotted this morning near the Golden Gate Bridge — and it follows closely on an early humpback whale sighting two weeks ago.
The tow operation happened with an assist from the Army Corps of Engineers, as NBC Bay Area reports.
A dead whale that washed up at Crissy Field in San Francisco was towed to Angel Island for a necropsy, officials said. https://t.co/PnTf0N8Ypk— NBC Bay Area (@nbcbayarea) March 31, 2021
(1/3) This morning, Wednesday, March 31, our experts briefly responded to a gray whale carcass that washed ashore at Crissy Field in San Francisco.— The Marine Mammal Center (@TMMC) March 31, 2021
With so many whales in the ocean these days and the consequent lack of available food, there's been a spate of dead whales washing ashore in recent years.
The increasing whale population in the Pacific is both good news and bad news, as we've seen, though whale experts have not been too certain about what the trend in whale deaths really indicates locally. Malnutrition has been the cause for some of the deaths, but ship strikes are another, and these are especially common in heavily trafficked parts of the water like the Golden Gate and San Francisco Bay.
Springtime appearances by both gray and humpback whales in the Bay have been increasingly common in recent years, something that experts have attributed to both the movements of schools of anchovies — which humpbacks eat — and whales searching for new food sources because of competition. Gray whales are opportunistic eaters, as this Oregon whale watching outfit explains, which means they'll eat from "a wide range of sources," however they prefer eating tiny crustaceans like mysid shrimp, which are also commonly found in the upper Bay and Delta.
Boaters and kayakers need to be extra-vigilant out on the Bay, because a whale coming to the surface to breathe or to breach could be a major hazard — and boats could also potentially injure the whales.
We didn't hear of quite as many washed up whale carcasses in 2020, but in the spring of 2019, there were at least nine dead gray whales found on beaches around the Bay Area.
The whales are currently on their migration north toward Alaska for summer feeding.
If members of the public see a marine mammal in distress, The Marine Mammal Center asks that they call their 24-hour hotline at 415-289-7325.
Photo: Cedric Letsch