An Australian warship docked in San Diego with two deceased endangered whales stuck to the ship’s hull, CNN reported Wednesday.
The two dead mammals were identified as fin whales, according to CNN. They were discovered once the ‘HMAS Sydney’ arrived at the Naval Base San Diego. Fin whales are the second-largest species of whale. The two whales measured 65 feet and 25 feet.
“The Navy takes marine mammal safety seriously and is disheartened this incident occurred,” a statement from the Australian navy said.
Fin whales are an endangered species protected by the Endangered Species Act (ESA), The Hill reported. It was passed in 1973 and stated it is the responsibility of the federal government to protect species on the list from going extinct. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are responsible for implementing the ESA.
The NOAA stated that there are approximately 102,000 fin whales left in the world — 3,200 off the coast of California. Vessel strikes are the most imminent threat of fin whales, according to the NOAA.
However, navy ships killing whales is a rare occurrence, Carl Schuster, a former US Navy captain, said.
#HMASSydney‘s Officer of the Watch, Lieutenant Zac Smith, checks environmental conditions and the ship’s position during a missile firing in the Southern Californian Exercise Area off the coast of the United States.
— Royal Australian Navy (@Australian_Navy) May 5, 2021
The NOAA Fisheries, along with the navies of both the United States and Australia, are investigating the incident, CNN reported.