SAN DIEGO — Two dead fin whales were dislodged from the hull of a Royal Australian Navy ship that has been conducting exercises in Southern California, authorities said.
The destroyer HMAS Sydney was pulling into a pier at Naval Base San Diego on Saturday morning when the carcasses of the two whales dislodged from the hull under the surface, the Australian Department of Defence told KSWB-TV.
One whale was 65 feet (19.81 meters) long and the other was about 25 feet (7.62 meters) long, KGTV-TV reported.
The Sydney has been holding joint exercises with the U.S. Navy in the area since early April.
“The Navy takes marine mammal safety seriously and is disheartened this incident occurred,” a U.S. Navy statement said.
U.S. and Australian agencies will jointly review the incident.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration issued a proposal Wednesday to increase the critical habitat designation for southern resident killer whales by more than sevenfold under the Endangered Species Act.
Fin whales are found off the San Diego coast all year long, and the dead whales could have been a mother and her calf, John Calambokidis, research biologist at the Cascadia Research Collective in Washington, told KSWB-TV.
Because of the speed and size of large ships, its not uncommon for the whales they strike to be discovered only when the ship slows down, Calambokidis said.
“In the vast majority of cases I’m familiar with, the ship is unaware of having struck the whale,” he said.
Ship strikes also are suspected in the deaths of a fin whale and two gray whales found last month in the San Francisco Bay Area, experts said.
The causes of death haven’t been determined for a pygmy sperm whale and five other gray whales found dead in the Bay Area this year, according to The Marine Mammal Center.