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Death Of Gray Whale In San Francisco Bay Likely Caused By Ship Strike

SAUSALITO (CBS SF) -- A female gray whale found dead near Oakland International Airport and then towed to a beach at Angel Island suffered blunt force trauma that was likely caused by a collision with a marine vessel, scientists said following a necropsy Wednesday.

The adult whale carcass was spotted near the Bay Bridge on Friday and by Saturday, it was stranded on rocks near the Oakland International Airport. On Tuesday, the carcass was towed to a beach on Angel Island, which served as landing area where scientists could examine the whale.

On Wednesday, a team of scientists with The Marine Mammal Center and the California Academy of Sciences performed a necropsy on the decomposing 44-foot-long whale carcass on the island's Sand Springs Beach.

"It was apparent early in the necropsy that this adult whale suffered significant blunt force trauma," said Dr. Padraig Duignan, Chief Research Pathologist at The Marine Mammal Center in a statement.  "While this is a sad outcome, the information gathered from this carcass is shared directly with our partners and partner agencies, helping inform policy decisions that can protect habitat areas, migration routes and food sources for marine mammals."

The whale had multiple skull fractures and bruises, as well as hemorrhaging to blubber and muscle tissue on the left side of its body, which are consistent with blunt force trauma, according to scientists.

Experts concluded the injuries are consistent with a vessel collision.

The Marine Mammal Center said this is the third gray whale death it has responded to since the beginning of 2018.

While examining the carcass, the California Academy of Sciences archived the whale's hip bones and The Marine Mammal Center was able to collect tissue samples for various research studies.

At this point, it remains unclear which ship may have struck the whale.

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