Scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration want to know how a whale ended up dead in the Port of Long Beach Wednesday night.
Authorities believe the animal is an endangered fin whale, a species that is commonly sighted off the West Coast, but it’s bizarre for the mammal — dead or alive — to turn up in a busy harbor, said Michael Milstein, a spokesman for NOAA fisheries.
NOAA crews plan to take a boat trip with Long Beach’s harbor patrol Thursday morning to get a better look at the whale.
“We’d like to do a full examination if we can,” Milstein said.
The problem, he said, is finding a space big enough to tow the carcass to perform a necropsy. If they can’t find the space, examiners will have to settle for looking at the whale in the water and taking some samples, according to Milstein.
It’s unclear at this point how the whale ended up in the harbor and whether it was alive when it got there.
The carcass was found near a small pier in the massive harbor complex around 7 p.m., according to the Long Beach Fire Department.
NOAA asked the first-responders to tie the animal’s body to the pier so a crew could travel out to examine it. It was still floating just off the shoreline in a remote area of the port near Pier T around 9:30 a.m. Thursday morning.
NOAA officials have looked at pictures of the dead whale, and Milstein said they found what appear to be abrasions to the mammal’s midsection, which could indicate it was hit by something or otherwise injured, but he cautioned that it’s too early to draw any conclusions.
Fin whales typically grow up to 40 or 50 feet long, according to Milstein. Authorities believe this one was an adult.