MOSS LANDING, Calif. - UPDATE 9/12/16 3:42 PM: The Monterey County Sheriff's Office released the identity Monday of a man whose body was discovered floating in Monterey Bay. Shariat Madari Babak, 54, of San Jose was reported missing from Davenport. Babak was identified by fingerprint analysis.
UPDATE 9/9/2016 6:15 PM: A day on the water turns into a death investigation as a group on a whale watching trip Thursday afternoon discovered a body floating in the Monterey Bay.
According to Chase Dekker, a biologist working on the boat, he and the captain thought it was a dead sea lion. As they went in for a closer look, they realized it was something else.
"We thought, ‘Alright, it's a pinniped,'" Dekker recalled. "About a minute later someone came to us and said, ‘No that thing had legs.'"
It was a man's body found floating three miles off shore. Some of the passengers on board were shaken up.
"It was a little freaky at first, there was no doubt about it. We're used to seeing dead pinnipeds, Dolphins, sea lions, stuff like that out in the water but we've never seen anything like a person before so in front a group of whale watchers it was a little strange."
Crew members called in authorities. The Monterey County Dive Team, U.S. Coast Guard and a CHP helicopter all responded.
Authorities said it took more than an hour to find the remains, which were then brought to the Coroner's Office for an autopsy.
"When the body is recovered for what appears to be an extended period of time, it's not in very good condition, so it's going to take some time to figure out who he is," Monterey County Sheriff's Office Cmdr. John Thornburg said.
Identifying the remains could take days, even months depending on the severity of decomposition. The body was found naked and without identification.
Between Monterey and Santa Cruz counties, there are at least three cases of people who were swept out to sea and their remains haven't been recovered.
Authorities have ruled out one case. Mary Katherine "Katie" Connell went missing in January after she and another man BASE jumped off Bixby Bridge. The newly discovered remains were male.
Also in January, two UC Santa Cruz students were swept to sea at Bonny Doon beach. Authorities found one body, but Ahmad Nourzaie, is still missing. In March, 17-year-old Jamie Fernandez fell off a cliff in Big Sur.
While it is still too early to identify the remains, Dekker said he just hopes whoever it is, their family gets the answers they need.
"I think some of us almost found some peace of mind in knowing we found a body that a family or friends has been looking for," Dekker said. "Maybe they can get some kind of closure from this."
UPDATE 9/9/16 11:41 AM: The Monterey County Sheriff's Office is investigating the circumstances surrounding a body found floating in the water near Moss Landing on Thursday.
People aboard a whale watching tour reported the body to authorities and the U.S. Coast Guard, Monterey County Sheriff's Office dive team, and a helicopter from the CHP helped recover it.
On Friday, we are learning more about the strange experience from whale watchers who didn't expect to see a body while on their tour.
KION's Mariana Hicks will have more on this story at 5 & 6.
PREVIOUS STORY: A whale watching company found a body while out in the water off Moss Landing today.
The Monterey County Sheriff's Office said the U.S. Coast Guard was called out to pick up the body. It will now be sent to the coroner.
They don't know how long the body was in the water or its gender at this point.