SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — Scientists with the California Academy of Sciences and The Marine Mammal Center said a juvenile gray whale that washed ashore near the San Leandro Marina last week likely died from injuries sustained in a vessel strike.

In a necropsy conducted Saturday, scientists identified several areas of hemorrhage found in the soft tissue around the whale’s eye, lower jaw, and shoulder indicating blunt force trauma that occurred while the whale was alive. In addition, they noted severed tail flukes and propeller lacerations along the body of the whale consistent with vessel collision.

“This specific gray whale incident puts into perspective the added challenges that human activity poses for a species that has lost nearly 40 percent of its population since 2019,” said Dr. Jeff Boehm of The Marine Mammal Center.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the number of gray whales migrating along the West Coast has dropped 38 percent since the last population assessment in 2016.

“Gray whales from Baja California to Alaska have been undergoing what’s known as an Unusual Mortality Event” said Moe Flannery of California Academy of Sciences. “This means it’s more important than ever that we respond to strandings such as the one that occurred this past week to learn as much as we can about the threats these animals are facing.”

CAS researchers regularly respond to stranding events throughout the Bay Area to conduct necropsies. Malnutrition, entanglement, and trauma from vessel strikes are the most common causes of death in whales.

It is critical for boaters and people on the water to keep a safe distance from whales, researchers said. All marine mammals are federally protected.