Dead humpback may have been hit by vessel

A NOAA Fisheries marine mammal team says preliminary results of a necropsy of a male humpback whale on Admiralty Island in Southeast Alaska found indications of trauma likely caused by a vessel strike.

Analysis of photos taken of the whale at Point Young in late May put the time frame of death within a week before the whale sighting was reported May 27.

“Confirmation of cause of death is pending lab results, which won’t be available for at least six months,” said Kate Savage, the lead veterinarian for the necropsy.

Savage and her team of nine others, including a bear guard, were greeted by numerous bald eagles feeding on the whale carcass, but no bears, when they arrived at Point Young on June 2. Multiple tissue samples were collected from the subadult humpback, as well as an ear plug to be used to age the whale.

NOAA has received no recent reports of any vessel striking a whale. NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement is looking into the matter.

Savage thanked the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and Alaska Seaplanes for assistance in re-sighting and confirming the location of the whale carcass, so that a necropsy could be performed, and Alaska Sea-to-Shore for providing boat transportation to Point Young.

“The quicker we get reports on marine mammal strandings, the more information we can get when we perform a necropsy, so we certainly appreciate timely reports from the public in a case like this,” she said.

If sighting a whale or other marine mammal in distress, call NOAA Fisheries Alaska 24-hour stranding hotline, 1-877-925-7773.

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