NEWPORT, Calif. (KSWB) — A migrating gray whale that appeared to be missing its tail was spotted off the Southern California coast.
Drone footage captured by Newport Coastal Adventure last month shows the marine mammal breaching near Newport Beach. As seen in the video, the whale’s fluke, or tail fin, looks to be completely missing.
Adult gray whales typically have tail flukes that are nearly 10 feet wide, according to NOAA Fisheries.
“This is definitely a ‘miracle whale’ since, despite completely missing its tail, it’s still persevering and continuing to make such an epic 12,000-mile roundtrip migration from their feeding grounds in Alaska to the breeding grounds in Mexico and back,” said Jessica Roame, the Education Programs Manager for Newport Landing and Davey’s Locker Whale Watching.
According to Roame, the gray whale without a tail fin was swimming at a normal pace of 3 mph. She said this type of injury was likely caused by its tail being tangled in commercial fishing gear, causing it to eventually fall off.
Gray whales migrate up and down the west coast of the United States every year. In the winter, they head to Baja California to have their calves in protected lagoons. Then they take the young whales on a long journey back toward Alaska to feed in the summer.
Gray whales are at “high risk” of being entangled in fishing gear during their long migration, NOAA Fisheries says. They are also at risk of colliding with ships, which could cause serious injury or death to the animal.
“As horrible as this injury is, it’s incredible that this whale is determined to survive, and so far, appears to be successful,” Roame continued.
Newport Landing, Davey’s Locker and Newport Coastal Adventure operate daily whale-watching tours out of the Newport Beach Harbor.