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October 26, 2005

A NOAA Fisheries biologist, four veterinarians and a Forest Service volunteer recently returned to their homes after studying a dead humpback whale beached in Peril Strait.

jpg beached humpback whale

Beached Humpback
Dwarfed by even a young humpback whle, Juneau veterinarian, Vic Walker, of the necropsy team sizes up the situation. The rope helped anchor the whale against tide waters. The grooves visible on the whale are ventral pleats that expand when whales take in water for filter feeding. Photo: NOAA Fisheries

Although final analysis of the animal's condition is still pending, this is the first humpback whale this year in Southeast Alaska that appears to have died as a result of severe blunt trauma consistent with being struck by a ship.

Twelve strike reports have been received by NOAA Fisheries this year, some of which were confirmed by captains, boat pilots or passengers, while others were simply mariners bumping into an unknown object and reporting it as a possible strike. On average, the NOAA Fisheries database records one humpback fatality per year in Alaska due to a ship strike.

NOAA Fisheries law enforcement is investigating what vessels may have been in the area during that time that could possibly have been involved in this incident.

The dead humpback was first reported dead and floating on October 15th to State Troopers and to whale researcher Jan Straley, of Sitka, who notified NOAA Fisheries. By Sunday, October 16th, the U.S. Coast Guard received word that the whale had beached.

Forest Service employees secured the whale to the beach so that it would not wash out again with the tide and so that the necropsy team could return to the known location of the whale. The Forest Service volunteer stood watch with a rifle to protect the necropsy team from the possibility of bears coming to the dead whale. Dr. Carrie Goertz of the Alaska Sealife Center headed up the necropsy team.



Source of News and Photograph:

NOAA Fisheries
National Marine Fisheries Service
Alaska Region


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