Rat poison ruled out of mysterious whale strandings

Dave Schofield
Dave Schofield

By Duane Shimogawa - bio | email

HONOLULU (KHNL) - The number of stranded whales in Hawaii are well above average over the past nine years.

Officials have ruled out at least one possible cause. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration or NOAA says there were three whale strandings so far this season in Hawaiian waters.

Although the average over the last nine years has been two per year, officials say there's no cause for alarm.

These breathtaking mammals migrate to Hawaii from November through the end of April. But some of them don't make it out of Hawaii.

Dave Schofield is the Marine Mammal Response Coordinator for NOAA. He says that around 20 percent of Humpback Whale calves die of natural causes during their first year of life.

"Humpback Whale calves and their mothers, this time of the year when they're down in Hawaii, they aren't feeding," Schofield said.

That's the main reason why Schofield says rat poison used to kill rats on Lehua Island is not responsible for the deaths of two whales near there.

The fish kill that happened off Niihau earlier this year is also still unexplainable.

"The thing we had heard people being concerned about is that shortly within the time frame of the fish kill and one whale stranding, there had been Rodenticide dropped on the Island of Lehua to eradicate that island from rats," Schofield said.

But tests ruled out rat poison.

"We did take a liver sample from that calf and that liver sample showed no signs of Rodenticide within its liver, if we were to find a toxin, it would be in the liver," Schofield said.

NOAA officials don't know what's causing the above average whale strandings this year.

"What we can say is that Rodenticide doesn't appear to have impacted the marine mammals in the local population here in hawaii," Schofield said.

Officials noticed abnormal behavior of Hawaiian Monk Seals in that same area off Niihau. But tests showed no signs of rat poison as well.