Whale With ‘Bite Marks’ Found Alive on Beach

Whale With ‘Bite Marks’ Found Alive on Beach

A whale has been found washed up on a California beach, covered in shark bite marks.

The whale, thought to possibly be a northern right whale dolphin, was found on Sunday evening on Sunset Beach in Los Angeles’s Huntington Beach region.

The discovery of the injured whale has led the beach to be closed for fear of the same shark attacking a person.

“As of 4:30pm on Sunday (11/5), the Sunset Beach shoreline & ocean has been closed due to shark activity,” posted the City of Huntington Beach – Government on Facebook. “At approximately 3:45pm, lifeguards were made aware of a beached juvenile whale near Tower 22 in Sunset Beach. While the whale was still alive, bite marks were seen on the mammal. In speaking with those in the area, beachgoers reported seeing splashing and aggressive shark activity prior to the whale washing ashore.

“As is the City’s policy when aggressive shark behavior is witnessed, the shoreline and ocean will be closed for 1 mile in each direction of the incident. The closure will remain in place for the next 48 hours.”

The right whale was still alive as of Sunday evening, although no update has been given since. Stranded whales don’t often survive the ordeal, especially if they are injured, dying of dehydration or crush injuries from their own weight.

Northern right whale dolphins, suggested to be the victim of this attack by local news Orange County Register, are the only species of dolphin with no dorsal fin, measuring between 6.5 to 10 feet long. These dolphins are found throughout the Pacific Ocean, traveling usually in large groups of hundreds or even thousands of individuals. NOAA estimates that there are about 68,000 of these dolphins in the whole North Pacific Ocean, 26,000 of which are found off the California, Oregon, and Washington coasts.

These dolphins are predated upon by great white sharks and orcas. The exact species that attacked the stranded whale has not been confirmed, however.

Great white sharks have been found to be moving further north along the California coastline due to climate change, with warming oceans expanding the range of juvenile white sharks.

“Anomalies in climate and an increase in the frequency of marine heat waves have probably caused an increase in nursery aggregations in juvenile white shark in California,” Jane Williamson, an associate professor in marine fisheries ecology at Macquarie University, told Newsweek. “The expansion of juvenile sharks northward in California has been confirmed, both visually and through incidental by-catch of the species.”

This may result in increased attacks on prey animals in these areas, and possibly increased risks to human swimmers.

“Shark bites on humans, while very rare, will be a function of the number of sharks, so if you increase the adult white shark population then you may predict a change in the number of bites on humans,” Yannis P. Papastamatiou, an associate professor at Florida International University’s Predator Ecology and Conservation lab, previously told Newsweek. “However, as far as I can tell, the increase in white shark numbers in northern California is for juvenile white sharks.

“Juveniles are very rarely implicated in bites on humans as their diet consists of fish, although they may attack small mammals like otters. So, I wouldn’t necessarily worry yet as the juveniles now inhabiting the northerly locations may be too small to really risk biting humans. You should still be very cautious around them though (juvenile white sharks are still at least 5-6ft long!).”

California has had 136 unprovoked shark attacks on record since 1837, according to the Florida Museum of Natural History’s International Shark Attack File.

The Sunset Beach whale was taken to the Pacific Marine Mammal Center for treatment, but there has been no update on the animal’s condition.

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This article by Jess Thomson was first published by Newsweek on 6 November 2023. Lead Image: Stock image of a great white shark attacking. A whale has been found washed up on the shore in California covered in shark bite marks. ISTOCK / GETTY IMAGES PLUS.

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