Wed, 16 Jun 2021

The carcasses of two endangered fin whales floated up to the surface after the Australian destroyer HMAS Sydney docked in San Diego Harbor, following missile tests off the coast of California.

One of the whales was about 65 feet (20 meters or so) long and the other about 25 feet (7.6 meters), according to the US Navy, which said it was "disheartened this incident occurred," as it takes "marine mammal safety seriously."

Local media captured footage of the larger whale before it was towed out to sea on Tuesday.

The smaller whale is reportedly being saved for a necropsy, and tissue samples have been collected from both. The US and Australian authorities will conduct a joint review into the incident, which saw the whales become lodged under the destroyer's hull, which extends seven meters below the surface.

A Hobart-class missile destroyer, the Sydney is the second-newest ship in the Royal Australian Navy (RAN), commissioned at sea in May 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. It had been conducting joint exercises with the US Navy since early April, off the coast of California, and sailed into San Diego on Saturday morning. The fate of the whales went unreported until Tuesday, however.

While the RAN has previously made a point of its personnel volunteering at animal shelters, it has yet to post anything about the demise of the whales on social media.

Fin whales are considered an endangered species, with an estimated population of only 100,000 or so worldwide, about 3,200 of them off the West Coast of the US. The second-largest cetacean species after the blue whale, fin whales can be found off San Diego year-round.

This is their "intense feeding time," biologist John Calambokidis, of the Cascadia Research Collective in Washington, told San Diego's KGTV.


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