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Whale carcass on Southern California beach believed to be hit earlier by Australian ship

Two fin whales found dead under hull of Australian ship at Naval Base San Diego
Posted at 4:00 PM, May 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-21 19:00:27-04

HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. (KGTV) — A stretch of Huntington Beach coastline and the adjacent ocean was closed Friday after the carcass of a dead fin whale washed ashore.

The Orange County Health Care Agency’s Environmental Health Division reported that the area at Bolsa Chica State Beach was closed after officials determined that the, "decomposing material on the beach and in the nearby ocean water poses a health hazard."

The area will remain closed to pedestrians, swimming, diving, and other water-contact sports until further notice, according to the county health agency.


According to the Associated Press, authorities believe the whale is one of two that were hit by an Australian Navy ship this month and towed out to sea from San Diego.

San Diego Bay is located about 90 miles south of Bolsa Chica.

Two fin whales were reportedly fatally hit by the Australian Navy vessel, before being dislodged from the hull at Naval Base San Diego on May 8. The ship had been in the area conducting joint exercises with the U.S. Navy since early April.

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.

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. He added that fin whales are especially susceptible to these incidents because they breathe, rest, and sometimes feed near the ocean's surface.

In a statement after the incident, the U.S. Navy said, "it takes marine mammal safety seriously and is disheartened this incident occurred."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.