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The Marine Mammal Center is a nonprofit veterinary hospital, research, and educational center dedicated to the rescue and rehabilitation of ill and injured marine mammals and the study of their health. Since 1975, the Center has rescued and treated more than 16,500 marine mammals and has accumulated a body of knowledge about marine mammal and ocean health. Through public education about marine mammals, the Center hopes to foster ocean stewardship and conservation. For more information, visit http://www.marinemammalcenter.org/

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Entering the Belly of a Whale

The Marine Mammal Center crew at work at the necropsy site in Richmond, CA.

Earth Day April 22, 2010

"Call me Ishmael" begins one of the most famous lines in literature in the classic tale of Moby Dick.

In a timely nod to Earth Day, The Marine Mammal Center saw another whale story begin to unfold right here in the Bay Area. On April 20, the Center responded to reports that a 25-foot-long, male Gray whale carcass was floating in the San Francisco Bay between Fort Mason and Alcatraz.

At the Center's request, the U.S. Coast Guard towed the carcass to a beach near the Richmond Bridge to enable Center researchers to perform a necropsy on April 21. The purpose of a necropsy is to gather information about the whale and to try to determine its cause of death.

Today the necropsy was completed, and samples have been sent to the lab. We are now waiting on toxicology results to see if any clue will be given as to the cause of death. This process may take several months.

During the necropsy, researchers noted that the whale was malnourished, but that there were no external signs of trauma.

Upon examination of the whale’s stomach, researchers found evidence of trash including a water bottle cap and other plastic particles.

This finding of trash deep inside the belly of a whale serves as an Earth Day reminder that we are all connected to the ocean.

By helping to reduce our use of plastics and to properly dispose of those plastics, we can indeed make a difference in the health of the ocean and the creatures that live within its waters.

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