Partially submerged whale threatens California beach

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A dead humpback whale found Sept. 12 near Fort Bragg, Calif., could move and injure bystanders, experts say.

Screenshot of the Noyo Center for Marine Science Facebook page

A partially submerged dead whale is stuck near a California cliff, and experts fear the carcass could suddenly move and injure anyone standing too close.

The juvenile whale was reported Monday, Sept. 12, in waters near downtown Fort Bragg, according to the Noyo Center for Marine Science. Fort Bragg is about 190 miles northwest of Sacramento.

He was identified as a 26.5ft male humpback whale, an endangered species that can grow tall at 60 feet and live to be 90 years old, according to NOAA Fisheries. A possible cause of death has not been released.

“We urge the public never to approach a dead marine mammal, but especially one of this size,” Noyo Center officials said.

“An animal of this size partially submerged in the waves…could change direction and pose a serious risk to an individual near the animal.”

The dangers are heightened in this case by the location, just “below a steep cliff”, officials said.

Center staff visited the whale at low tide and collected data for research, but have no plans to move it off the beach.

In August, the Noyo Center attempted to tow a 45ft dead sperm whale from a “cove near Mendocino Bay to a suitable beach for a partial autopsy”. But he “loss of buoyancy” and sank before reaching its destination, the center said.

Permits are required by the National Marine Fisheries Service for research on beached whales, which means any passerby who disturbs the dead humpback whale could be breaking the law, officials said.

“Not only is it dangerous, but it is illegal under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) to remove parts of a whale, except prior approval from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Admin,” the center said. .

The Noyo Center responds to dead marine mammals on the Mendocino Coast, from Gualala to Rockport, as part of the Marine Mammal Stranding Network. The center’s research is authorized under license with the California Academy of Sciences.

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Mark Price has been a reporter for The Charlotte Observer since 1991, covering topics including schools, crime, immigration, LGBTQ issues, homelessness and nonprofits. He graduated from the University of Memphis with a major in journalism and art history, and a minor in geology.

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