A humpback whale popular with whale watchers in waters off California and Mexico has died after being struck by a passing ship.
Known as Fran, the 50-foot whale was found washed up on the shore in Half Moon Bay south of San Francisco earlier this week, and her death now raises concerns for the survival of her young calf.
A post mortem has revealed Fran suffered a force trauma associated with a ship strike.
Many species of whales feed, play, migrate, rest, nurse, mate, give birth, and socialize in urbanised marine highways, putting them at risk of being struck by passing vessels. Large passing ships are unlikely to see a whale or may be unable to divert course if they do see one.
In the case of endangered North Atlantic right whales, ship strike is one of the two biggest threats to their survival and WDC has successfully campaigned to have ship speed limits reduced to help prevent injury and death in the future.
Conservationists first spotted Fran in January of 2014 in Guerrero, Mexico and had been tracking her ever since.