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UPDATED: A Rare Stranding on Oregon Coast, Fin Whale Washes Up Near Seaside

Published 2/13/24 at 7:35 p.m.
y Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

A Rare Stranding on Oregon Coast, Fin Whale Washes Up Near Seaside

(Gearhart, Oregon) – SEE THE UPDATES: Oregon Coast Fin Whale Update: Sick, Weathered Orca Attack, Fishing Gear ---- A rare find, attacked by orcas, fishing gear, and very sick

Exactly when it washed up is unclear. In fact, little to nothing is known at the moment about the gigantic Fin whale that stranded on the north Oregon coast, except that it is dead now. (Photos Seaside Aquarium)

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The whale – somewhere about 40 feet long – is currently sitting on the beach at Gearhart, apparently having landed there sometime on Monday. Aside from that, witness accounts differ whether it was alive or not at the beginning, with some initial reports claiming it was moving in the surf.

However, at this time, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Pacific Fisheries is saying it was dead when it came ashore at Sunset Beach State Park.

A necropsy will be done on it Tuesday and more will be known then.

NOAA is adamant the public stay away, but regional TV media footage has shown not many heeding that plea. They're asking the public to stay 100 yards away from the deceased fin whale.

“Leave the carcass undisturbed and urge others to do the same,” NOAA said in a social media post. “Fin whales are the second largest whale in the world, after Blue whales, and they are protected by law. Our best chance of learning what happened to this endangered species is to examine the carcass, but any disturbance or interaction with the carcass compromises that opportunity.”

NOAA said it will share its findings following the necropsy.

Whatever happened here, this stranding is extremely rare. In over 17 years of covering whale strandings, Oregon Coast Beach Connection has not come across one involving a fin whale.

They are sometimes seen on whale charter boats, but it does not appear to be too often. Numbers of fin whales off the West Coast are nebulous, but scientists have a much better idea on the population off the East Coast.

According to NOAA and Whale's Tail Charters in Depoe Bay, fin whales inhabit a wide range of oceans on the Earth, including off the Oregon coast, as well as Washington and California. They can get as long as 80 feet and their blow can get up to 20 feet into the air, seen as far away as several miles.

“It gets its name from an easy-to-spot fin on its back, near its tail,” NOAA said in its documentation on fin whales.

Fin whales of the North Pacific and North Atlantic are B. physalus physalus, but even so scientists think of the two populations as different species.

Last year, several whales washed up all over the Oregon coast within a short period, including three right around the Wreck of the Peter Iredale within days of each other.

Fourth Whale Carcass on Oregon Coast in Two Weeks, This Time Cannon Beach, Video. From the story and talk with Keith Chandler of Seaside Aquarium:

“It has to do with currents and wind,” he said. “The conditions were right to bring a lot of things onshore. These bodies float around out there for a real long time.”

Conditions often combine out there to bring in many things at once. He said discovering multiple sea lion or sea turtles on the beaches always happens in clumps.

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More on Gearhart (photos Oregon Coast Beach Connection)

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Coastal Spotlight

Andre' GW Hagestedt is editor, owner and primary photographer / videographer of Oregon Coast Beach Connection, an online publication that sees over 1 million pageviews per month. He is also author of several books about the coast.

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