The Florida Atlantic University Harbor Branch Marine Mammal Stranding Team responded to a call Sunday, to recover a dead whale which had beached near the Fort Pierce Inlet. Epidemiologist Adam Schaefer, M.P.H. and his team performed a post-mortem examination to determine the cause of death back at the FAU Harbor Branch Necropsy Laboratory.
The immature female Beaked whale measured approximately 11 feet in length and weighed more than 600 lbs. The whale appeared to be emaciated and in poor condition. Further examination revealed the presence of a large plastic bag in the forestomach with a metal tie, which had obstructed the passage of food into the intestinal tract. Tragically, this whale died of starvation.
Beaked whales are occasionally found along the coast of North America, particularly the Gulf Stream. Beaked whales are one of the least known groups of mammals because of their offshore deep-sea habitat and relatively small numbers worldwide. Population estimates for these whales do not exist because they are so infrequently sighted. The stranding of a Beaked whale in Florida waters is a very unusual event.
“The death of this rare whale should be an important reminder to all of us who live near the coast of the harmful effects of disposing trash into the ocean. It is the responsibility of all Floridians and people everywhere to prevent this loss of life and further deterioration of the oceans which occupy 71 percent of the surface of our planet,” said Schaefer.
Stranding response conducted under a Stranding Agreement between NOAA Fisheries Service and FAU Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute under the authority of the Marine Mammal Protection Act.