SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — Two dead whales that became lodged into an Australian Navy ship have prompted safety concerns by local marine life advocates.
The two dead fin whales became dislodged from the hull of an Australian Navy ship as it pulled into Naval Base San Diego on Saturday. The ship had been in the area conducting joint exercises with the U.S. Navy since early April.
According to U.S. Navy spokesperson, the carcasses became dislodged from the hull and surfaced, one was 65 feet long and the other was about 25 feet.
Gone Whale Watching owner Domenic Biagini told ABC 10News there's an "unprecedented" gathering of fin whales off San Diego County's coast right now and they're getting closer and closer to shore.
"Out as much as 60 miles there are basically fin whales everywhere you go right now, and recently in the last week that has moved much closer San Diego," Biagini said. "Everything is within 16 to 18 miles of shore right now. Which sounds kind of far out but that's local for us. In two and a half hours out boats go 35 miles an hour. We're able to get to those zones pretty quickly."
He added that he's concerned ships may be traveling too fast through the area. Biagini said he shuts off his boat when whales are nearby and wants military and civilian boaters to come together to discuss the issue.
This week, John Calambokidis, a research biologist at the Cascadia Research Collective in Washington, told ABC 10News that it's not uncommon that a ship only notices it struck a whale after it slows down because of the size and speed of large ships.
“It's sad, but it’s also not surprising,” said Calambokidis. “In the vast majority of cases I'm familiar with, the ship is unaware of having struck the whale. While it's possible it could be separate incidents, it's also possible this is a mother and calf from the size distribution."
Calambokidis says the collisions could have taken place anywhere close or far from shore, and that fin whales are vulnerable because they breathe, rest, and sometimes feed near the ocean's surface.
In a statement, the U.S. Navy said, "it takes marine mammal safety seriously and is disheartened this incident occurred."
According to the U.S. Navy and NOAA Fisheries, a joint review into the incident will be conducted between U.S. and Australian authorities. Tissues samples have been collected and a necropsy may be done on the smaller whale.