LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com/AP) — Crews were working Wednesday morning to drag the carcass of a dead humpback whale out to sea after it again drifted towards shore — this time, near San Pedro.
The huge whale, affectionately dubbed “Wally” last year by whale-watchers, first washed onto Dockweiler Beach Thursday evening and lifeguards towed it out to sea the following day.
On Wednesday morning, authorities received word that the carcass was drifting back towards the San Pedro shoreline — pushed by winds and currents. There was even a chance of the whale drifting onto Huntington Beach midday Wednesday, lifeguards said.
Lifeguards again dragged it farther out to sea.
They’re hoping this time the 46-foot-long, 22-ton carcass stays out to sea and sinks in open water, becoming a source of food for pelagic sea life.
The cause of death for the humpback, which is an endangered species, has not been determined. But parasites were found in its intestines. At the time of the prior sightings, the humpback was covered with whale lice, which usually means a whale is in poor physical condition, but it was also actively feeding and breaching, a scientist told the Associated Press.
Skin and blubber samples were taken for DNA testing along with fecal matter to be tested for biotoxins.
The experts had hoped to more extensively open up the whale but due to the holiday weekend authorities decided to get it off the beach as soon as possible, Greenman said.
North Pacific humpbacks feed along the West Coast from California to Alaska during summer, according to the Marine Mammal Center, a Sausalito-based ocean conservation organization. Although the species’ numbers are extensively depleted, humpbacks have been seen with increasing frequency off California in recent years, the center’s website said.
Humpbacks, familiar to whale watchers for their habits of breaching and slapping the water, are filter feeders that consume up to 3,000 pounds of krill, plankton and tiny fish per day, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The whale that washed up is not the same one spotted earlier in the week off Southern California tangled in crab pot lines. That animal was identified as a blue whale. Efforts by a rescue crew in a small boat to cut away the line failed, and it disappeared.
California has seen a number of whales on beaches this year. A humpback carcass that appeared off Santa Cruz in May had to be towed out to sea, while a massive gray whale that ended up on San Onofre State Beach in April had to be chopped up and hauled to a landfill.
The same month, a distressed humpback was freed from crabbing gear in Monterey Bay. In March, a dead gray was removed from Torrey Pines State Beach.
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