An adult pygmy sperm whale was found dead Wednesday morning on the shores of Keawakapu Beach on Maui.
According to David Schofield of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA’s Marine Mammal Response Network responded to reports of the beached whale at around 6:30 a.m. By the time crews arrived, the 985-pound whale was confirmed dead.
A Hawaiian cultural practitioner was called to perform a blessing over the whale, Schofield said, before crews transported the carcass to Oahu via Aloha Air Cargo, where it was then taken to Hawaii Pacific University.
At approximately 10:30 p.m. that night, a necropsy was performed and officials determined the animal appeared healthy, meaning there were no clear signs of disease. However, there was a fracture near the whale’s jaw area.
Schofield said they could not discern if the fracture was caused by interaction from another whale or if it was related to human activity. They could not even determine if the mammal’s death was a result of the fracture.
Oriana Kalama -- founder and president of Ocean Defender Hawaii, a non-profit group that aims to protect and restore the health of the ocean – told Hawaii News Now her group is investigating the possible causes of the whale’s death, which she believes could possibly be due to sonar activity in the waters, despite restrictions on the U.S. Navy from performing such exercises.
Kalama also said the whale could’ve died from natural causes or a seaquake.
At this point, there is no official cause of death, according to NOAA. The next step will be to send out tissue samples to various labs on the mainland to see if the whale suffered any diseases.