Large whale carcass washes up on Copalis Beach Airport runway

Nov 23, 2023, 7:45 AM

Image: A deceased fin whale washed ashore on Copalis Beach in November 2023....

A deceased fin whale washed ashore on Copalis Beach in November 2023. (Photo courtesy of KIRO 7)

(Photo courtesy of KIRO 7)

A dead fin whale measuring dozens of feet long washed up on the Washington coast north of Ocean Shores earlier this month, prompting a warning for pilots.

An airport alert from the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) states the upcoming king tides could move the whale and block access to the Copalis State Airport runways.

King tides are the highest tides that occur during each winter season when the sun, moon and earth are all aligned, KIRO Newsradio meteorologist Ted Buehner wrote recently. He also explained that “king tides by themselves can cause some minor tidal overflow flooding of low-lying coastal areas for the inland waters of Western Washington.” Buehner added that if a storm also produces strong winds, “wave action can result in greater coastal flooding damage.”

How to prepare: King Tide season is back

KIRO 7 reported the whale washed ashore on Nov. 11.

People in the area are urged to “use extreme caution and watch out for pedestrians, vehicles and active wildlife in the vicinity.”

The state is also warning those in the vicinity that the giant carcass could produce a “strong” odor.

More on fin whales

NOAA Fisheries, part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, notes the fin whale is the second-largest whale species on Earth, second only to the blue whale.

“It is found throughout the world’s oceans,” the agency’s website states. “It gets its name from an easy-to-spot fin on its back, near its tail.”

Fully mature fin whales generally reach between 75 and 85 feet long and weigh between 40 and 80 tons, according to NOAA Fisheries.

It is not yet known what caused this whale’s death, but the government agency lists vessel strikes and the animals getting entangled in fishing gear as notable threats.

‘Unprecedented challenge’: Trawl vessels caught 10 killer whales in ’23 off Alaska, federal agency says

“Fin whales are probably the most vulnerable species to ship strikes after North Atlantic Right Whales,” the NOAA Fisheries website states. “The projected increase in ship traffic arising from the opening of trans-polar shipping routes (as arctic sea ice continues to decline) will increase the risk of vessel strike and also increase ambient noise and pollution.”

The WSDOT alert states that those who have additional questions are advised to contact the airport manager by email at or call 360-618-2477.

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Large whale carcass washes up on Copalis Beach Airport runway