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Endangered fin whale found dead near Long Beach port

The 40-foot long juvenile female fin whale was found dead near the Port of Long Beach.
The 40-foot long juvenile female fin whale was found dead near the Port of Long Beach.
NBC4 Los Angeles

Scientists were working Thursday to determine what killed a whale found in a shipping channel at the Port of Long Beach.

The 40-foot-long juvenile female fin whale was discovered by the U.S. Coast Guard around 6 p.m. Wednesday near Nimitz Road and Pier T.

Scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration arrived late Thursday morning to perform a necropsy.

"It has abrasions on its midsection which could possibly be from a ship strike," said NOAA spokesman Michael Milstein.

It is not common to find a whale in a busy port area. Milstein told KPCC that fin whales are usually found further offshore.

NOAA whale biologist Bernardo Alps said there are at least two explanations for why the whale was found with abrasions in the port.

“It really appears that the whale was brought into the port on the bow of a large ship which could either mean that it was either struck alive and killed by the ship or that it was already dead floating in the water and picked up by the ship and brought in,”  Alps told our media partner NBC4.

Fin whales are an endangered that live off the coast of Southern California. Some stay local while others migrate during winter months. Scientists estimate there were as many as 40,000 at one time.  Their population plummeted during whaling operations in the 1900s. They've rebounded to 10,000 here off the West Coast. Fin whales can live to be 90 years old.

"While it is tragic to lose an individual whale – especially a female, the species as a whole is doing quite well," said Milstein. 

Once scientists have gleaned information from the carcass, they will likely have it towed offshore and sunk in the ocean.