A remarkable whale was recently sighted off the coast of Newport Beach, according to Jessica Roame, spokesperson for Newport Landing & Davey's Locker Whale Watching. This particular whale stood out because it was seen without its fluke, the tail that all whales use to propel themselves through the water.
The whale was first spotted by a Newport Whales whale-watching vessel on March 13th at around 10 a.m. It was swimming at a pace of 3 mph and appeared to be healthy in all other respects. Despite the lack of a fluke, the whale was able to dive and "fluke" by raising its disabled tail above the water line and swimming with typical gray whale behavior.
According to Whales.org, tails are how biologists monitor whales due to their unique markings, which are used to individually identify each whale, almost like a fingerprint. However, many individuals have been documented without a complete set of fins, likely due to incidental entanglement in fishing gear, being hit by a boat's propeller, or a lucky escape from a predator. These whales can adapt quite well to losing part or all of a fin, as was likely the case with this whale.
Roame noted that the lack of a fluke didn't seem to slow the whale down, and it appeared to be able to make its migration from Alaska to Mexico and back, suggesting that the injury was several years old. Although the whale may be slightly underweight, it is still determined to survive despite the injury.
Experts believe that the whale's injury was caused by its tail becoming tangled in commercial fishing gear and eventually falling off. While the injury is undoubtedly horrible, it is incredible that the whale has managed to adapt and survive.