An examination of a recently stranded humpback whale on the Washington outer coast revealed severe trauma consistent with ship strike. The 30 ½ foot yearling female came ashore on 26 July 2020 in Ocean Shores and was necropsied the following day by Cascadia Research and SR3. The animal was in good nutritional condition, with internal fat stores and ample food in the GI tract. Bruising, internal bleeding, and several broken ribs were found on the upper left side of the animal, indicating a pre-mortem vessel collision. This is the second incidence of ship strike involving a humpback whale in Washington waters this year (click here for this story); another juvenile humpback was hit by a ferry off Clinton on 6 July 2020 and is thought to have been killed but a body has not been recovered to confirm this (it was a different whale than the one that washed up).
Identification photos of the whale examined in Ocean Shores this week (fluke photo below)were matched to an animal that was first photographed as a calf in the summer of 2019 and had been seen several times throughout the late summer and fall in the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The Straits and north Washington waters is an area of high ship traffic overlapping with areas of whale concentration and a source of major concern for ship strike risk. Tissue samples collected will contribute to a variety of long term research projects, including genetic and contaminant analyses and prey studies.