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National Marine Fisheries Service, Alaska Regional Office

Humpback whale tails. Photo: Dave Csepp

NOAA Fisheries News Releases


NEWS RELEASE
August 23, 2010
Julie Speegle, 907-586-7032

Dead whale near Tenakee Springs likely killed by vessel strike

necropsy of humpback whale in Tenakee Springs, Alaska
NOAA Fisheries scientists conducting a necropsy of a humpback whale near Tenakee Springs, Alaska

Juneau, AK – A deceased humpback whale sighted near Tenakee Springs last week likely died as a result of injuries from a vessel strike, say NOAA Fisheries scientists who performed a necropsy on the carcass Friday.

The humpback whale was first reported floating near Tenakee Springs early last Thursday morning. NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service authorized volunteers in the Marine Mammal Stranding Network to tow the carcass away from town to a beach appropriate for a necropsy.

"This 30-foot long male had marked internal injuries, bruising and hemorrhage indicative of death by high impact, blunt force trauma" said Dr. Kate Savage, a veterinarian with NOAA who led the necropsy.

Researchers will try to identify the whale by comparing markings on its tail fluke to photos in Southeast Alaska humpback whale catalogues. They also collected one of the whale's eyes, which can be used to determine the whale's age.

Reported incidents of vessel strikes with whales in Alaska appear to be increasing in recent years. At this stage, it is difficult to determine whether this is due to a greater reporting effort or whether it truly reflects an increase in incidents. Regardless, the incidence of collisions is likely to increase in the future, as the North Pacific humpback whale population continues to recover at the same time numbers of vessels in Southeast Alaska are also increasing. Currently, more than 3,000 humpback whales swim in the waters of Southeast Alaska, where nearly 80-percent of Alaska’s reported whale-vessel collisions occur.

To protect humpback whales and reduce the risk of strike, NOAA Fisheries asks mariners to slow their speeds when traveling through known whale waters, and/or when whales are sighted nearby. This is crucial for large and small vessel alike; about half of reported whale strikes in Southeast Alaska involve small private recreational vessels.

Sightings of whales or other marine mammals in distress can be reported to the NOAA Fisheries Marine Mammal Hotline at (877) 925-7773.

NOAA understands and predicts changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and conserves and manages our coastal and marine resources. Visit us at http://www.noaa.gov or on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/noaa.lubchenco. To learn more about NOAA Fisheries in Alaska, visit alaskafisheries.noaa.gov or: www.afsc.noaa.gov.


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