Both fin and blue whales are also frequently found in shipping lanes, and they spend a lot of their time at the surface, particularly at night, he said.
Fin whales joined the endangered species list in 1970 due to commercial fishing, and current estimates put about 8,000 off the West Coast, according to NOAA. They appear to be flourishing off Southern California.
Troy Sears, who runs whale watching trips through Next Level Sailing, said it’s not unusual to see as many as 30 fin whales a day on excursions 10 to 20 miles offshore.
“There’s more fin whales off our coast now than I’ve ever seen in my career,” he said.
That’s where the ocean depth drops from 500 feet to 3,000 feet. “They like being in that transitional area,” Sears said. It’s also where the krill they feed on thrives.
Military ships are almost always in the area, Sears said.
He hopes this incident will inspire more local collaboration to prevent future strikes. “The combination of using technology, science and the benefit of us being out there every day, we can start giving real time information on the high density of animals, for the Navy in particular,” Sears said.
NOAA officials said these incidents are studied with prevention in mind.
“We are reviewing the incident and will try to understand, observe and learn from it if we can, in terms of what may help us avoid this type of thing in the future,” said Michael Milstein, a NOAA spokesperson.
Staff writer Gary Robbins contributed to this report.
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