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California celebrity whale named Fran dies after being struck by ship

The 49-foot humpback whale, named Fran by researchers, came to shore in Half Moon Bay

Graeme Massie
Los Angeles
Thursday 01 September 2022 20:18 BST
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(The Marine Mammal Center)

One of California’s best-known whales washed up on shore after being killed when it was struck by a ship, scientists say.

The 49-foot humpback whale, named Fran by researchers, came to shore in Half Moon Bay, 30 miles south of San Francisco.

Marine biologists say that Fran was in good health and well-nourished, but that she had suffered a fatal skull injury, most likely caused by a ship strike.

Researchers say that she had her only child with her and it is not known if it survived or was also killed.

Humpback whales can live as long as 90 years, but Fran was just 17, according to scientists.

One of California’s best-known whales washed up on shore after being killed when it was struck by a ship, scientists say. (The Marine Mammal Center)

“I still feel nauseous,” Alisa Schulman-Janiger, a research associate at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles, told SF Gate.

“This is somebody in the family. We know her. It’s somebody you spent time with.

“She has a quirky personality. She likes to come up to boats, but not necessarily mug them. She’s a great feeder, she has her friends and relatives who she hangs out with. She’s full of personality. I haven’t gotten used to saying ‘she was.”

Scientists say that there is a population of around 3,000 humpback whales that spend time in the waters off California during the summer before heading for Mexico during the winter.

The waters off the West Coast have busy shipping lanes, with migrating whales at the highest risk as they stop to feed, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association.

There have been 101 large whale vessel collisions since 2013, according to the NOAA’s West Coast Region, which includes California, Oregon and Washington.

“In the database we built, we have 70,000 whales and I recognized her immediately,” Ted Cheeseman, who runs the Happywhale citizen science project, told the news outlet.

“Ship strikes are tragic. This is the most beautiful animal in the world, being killed literally as road kill. It’s such a waste. Quite honestly, I’m both sad and mad.”

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