According to recent reports, a gray whale, which lost its tail, was observed swimming off the coast of California. This sighting has revealed that the whale has adapted to swimming on its side. The whale is likely en route between feeding grounds in Alaska and breeding grounds near Mexico. Jessica Roame, the education manager for Newport Whales in California, told Fox 11 Los Angeles.
“The whale is maybe a little underweight but not dramatically so,” Roame told the outlet, calling the specimen a “miracle whale.” That assessment implies the whale’s tail injury hasn’t prevented it from finding food or migrating, Newport Whales told Fox LA.
It has been captured on camera by Newport Coastal Adventure’s drone, using its pectoral fins for swimming while leaning to one side.
— ABC7 Eyewitness News (@ABC7) March 29, 2023
Ryan Lawler, the owner of Newport Coastal Adventure, has commented on the whale’s unique swimming style. Lawler noted that the whale had to compensate for losing its tail, making its swimming speed slower than usual. Whale experts have suggested that the whale may have lost its tail due to getting caught in commercial fishing gear.
“It definitely had a unique swimming style because it had to compensate for not having a tail anymore,” Lawler said, per The Orange County Register.
This is not the first time a gray whale without a tail has been sighted off the coast of California. In February 2018, another gray whale was observed swimming without a tail, favoring its right side after each breath. Despite its impairment, the whale was doing well and had adapted to the loss of an integral limb. It is uncertain if the whale sighted in 2018 was the same whale seen in March.