Necropsy finds 5 fish hooks in dolphin in Hawaii - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Necropsy finds 5 fish hooks in dolphin in Hawaii

Posted: Updated:
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

Scientists are trying to determine what killed a rare dolphin that was found dead on a remote beach on the Big Island earlier this month.

The body of the dolphin, known as a false killer whale, was discovered October 5th at South Point. 

A necropsy revealed five fishing hooks inside the dolphin's stomach.

"Our necropsy examination of the false killer whale did not show signs of external injuries, or injuries in the mouth or the stomach lining from the hooks or associated fishing gear in the stomach," said Kristi West, an associate professor of biology at Hawaii Pacific University who conducted the exam.

According to West, it also appeared that the dolphin didn't swallow the hooks all at once.

"We do think that the hooks were ingested over multiple events because some were shiny and new," she said. "Others were pitted and degraded from stomach acids, suggesting that they had been in there for a long time."

This particular animal was a male, 14 and-a-half feet long. It weighed 1,800 pounds. It was originally identified off Oahu about ten years ago, and had been spotted several times between Oahu and the Big Island.

False killer whales are endangered, with only some 150 to 200 of them in and around near-shore Hawaiian waters. In offshore fisheries, they've occasionally been snared by longline fishermen looking for ahi tuna.

"It's possible that the whale was actively interacting with fisheries," said West. "it's also possible that these represent hooks that were in fish that were slow and weak."

None of the hooks found in this animal are the new, weaken ones that longliners now use to prevent accidental dolphin hookings. But if the hooks didn't kill this dolphin, what did?

"At this time we don't know how the whale died. We did see some large lymph nodes, which can be indicative of infection," said West.

It will still be a few more weeks before the exact cause of death will be determined, said West. Meanwhile, even though the animal is dead, she believes it will still be able to tell scientists more about how it lived in an effort to save the rest of the population.

West says the hooks have been turned over to the NOAA Marine Fisheries Service for further examination. 

 

Follow Ben Gutierrez:    

Copyright 2013 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.