Whale expert believes Daniel’s Harbour whale struck by vessel

Gary
Gary Kean
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A whale beached at Daniel’s Harbour, which may have already had a nasty encounter with a ship, may soon be towed away by another vessel.

This young fin whale washed ashore in Daniel’s Harbour recently and one expert believes it may have been killed by a ship strike. — Photo courtesy of Wyn Rolls

It may not be anywhere near the size of the blue whales beached further south on the Northern Peninsula but, like those other ones, this whale has to go.

The whale at Daniel’s Harbour, about 80 kilometres north of Rocky Harbour, is an estimated seven or eight metres long. That makes it around a quarter of the size of the blue whales beached in Rocky Harbour and Trout River.

Still, it is close enough for the town to have to make a decision on what to do with it before it begins to decompose and create an offensive stench.

“It hasn’t begun to stink yet, but it will,” said Melda Hann, the town clerk manager with the Town of Daniel’s Harbour. “The council here got together and has decided they will relocate it.”

On Monday, a rope had been tied to the whale’s tail and Hann said the person the town has tasked with hauling it away was waiting for the right conditions to do the job safely.

Hann wasn’t exactly sure where the whale would end up.

“It will be away from everybody else, that’s about all I know,” she said. “My guess is it will be on a beach in an unpopulated area somewhere north of the town.”

The whale has been identified by both Wayne Ledwell of the Whale Release and Strandings organization and an official with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans as being a fin whale. Ledwell said, given a newborn fin whale measures around six metres in length, this is a young whale.

Ledwell has only seen photos of the whale but, judging from the images he has seen, he thinks the fin whale may have actually been struck by a ship.

In an email to The Western Star, Ledwell said it appears to him the whale has severe trauma from a broken bone.

“I've sent it to a colleague of mine, a large whale vet in the U.S. to have a look at,” Ledwell wrote about his suspicion.

He noted that the trauma is too severe for the whale to have died from being crushed in ice, which was the suspected cause of death in the beached blue whales further to the south.

Ledwell is interested in arranging funding to further examine the dead fin whale.

“This is a very unusual stranding and, given the freshness of it, I would contact the provincial vets from over there to conduct and assist with pathology,” he said, adding the carcass could be a great learning experience for local schools.

While blue whales are considered an endangered species under the federal Species at Risk Act, fin whales are listed as a species of concern.

Unlike the case with the blue whales, the Town of Daniel’s Harbour did not need a special permit from DFO to move the fin whale. The only stipulation is that the whale not be set adrift and create a potential navigational hazard, but must be beached in another location.

Twitter: WS_GaryKean

Organizations: Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Strandings organization

Geographic location: Rocky Harbour, Northern Peninsula, Western Star U.S.

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