Massive 52-foot fin whale washes up on San Diego beach

A dead 52-foot fin whale washed up on Pacific Beach in San Diego Sunday.

The whale came ashore sometime before 9:30 a.m. local time, NBC San Diego reported, off of Santa Rita Place near the border of Mission Beach and Pacific Beach.

The dead whale was bleeding from its side, but it appeared to be from birds pecking at it rather than a major injury, Michael Milstein, a public affairs officer with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, told NBC San Diego.

Lifeguards made an unsuccessful attempt this morning to tow the massive mammal back out to sea by tying its tail to a small boat, NBC San Diego reported.

According to NBC San Diego, dozens of spectators as well as personnel from the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department, including firefighters and lifeguards, and the San Diego Police Department were seen gathering around the whale this morning, some even running up to it and touching it.

Lifeguards continually urged bystanders via their vehicle’s loudspeaker to leave the whale alone and to give researchers space with it, according to NBC San Diego.

NBC San Diego reported that researchers with the NOAA arrived around 11:00 a.m. local time and created a perimeter around the whale with the help of the lifeguards.

Image: A whale is shown on Pacific Beach
A whale is shown on Pacific Beach in San Diego after washing ashore on Sunday.Dana Williams / NBC News

Researchers were taking photos of the whale and collecting data in an attempt to determine how it died. NBC San Diego reported that the whale, a female juvenile, did not appear to have any propeller marks or gashes, which would be apparent if it were killed by a vessel, Milstein said.

It was not immediately clear how the whale died, Milstein told NBC San Diego. He added that people and pets should stay away from it to give researches space to investigate the cause of death.

And since the cause of death remains unknown, Milstein told NBC San Diego, the whale could have an underlying illness.

Milstein said the team of NOAA researchers is working to remove the fin whale — which is the second-largest whale species on Earth, he said — off the beach as soon as possible. They plan to tow it offshore and let it sink.