A stranded fin whale that washed ashore at Stinson Beach in Marin County on Monday morning ended up dying despite crews’ efforts to push it back into the salty waters of the Pacific Ocean.
The whale, which measured about 40 feet long, was spotted by a couple of girls on a morning jog. They told their parents, who notified the Marin County Fire Department.
"It was breathing, and every time it would breathe, its fin moved and its tail was moving," said Lauren Alexander, whose family is visiting California from Minnesota.
When fire crews arrived at the beach, the whale was still breathing and struggling to stay alive, according to Stinson Beach Fire Protection District Chief Kenny Stevens.
Fire officials called in biologists from Sausalito's Marine Mammal Center. By the time they arrived, shortly before 9 a.m., the whale had died.
"Right before the whale died, it made one last big frantic push to try and get out," Stevens said.
He said 200-300 people were watching from the beach.
Many of those gathered said they were heartbroken.
"It made me sad, because I know there’s a lot of whales out there," Allaura Barrett said, "but he was just a baby, and he should’ve had a lot longer life."
It is unclear how the whale, believed to be a juvenile, washed ashore, but the girls who first spotted the beached finback said they noticed a big gash on the whale’s underside.
MMC biologist Shawn Johnson performed a necropsy on the whale to try and figure out what had driven it to shore. He said it was the fourth fin whale beached in the Bay Area since 2010. Most were hit by boats.
"It’s going to be difficult to say why it stranded," Johnson said. "But it is a rare occurrence for whales to strand here in our stranding area."
The county plans to bury the whale on the beach.
The fin or finback whale, also known as a razorback, is the second longest animal in the world, weighing on average 74 tons.
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