Stranded whale on Molokai dies

By Mari-Ela David - bio | email

NEAR KAUNAKAKAI (KHNL) - The stranded whale found on Molokai monday morning, did not make it. After spending all day in distress, a veterinarian decided to euthanize the mammal. The whale is now on Oahu, where scientists are conducting a necropsy to learn more about its death.

After eight hours struggling in the waters near Kaunakekai, a vet decides the most humane thing to do is put down the young Cuviers Beaked whale.

The U.S. Coast Guard transported the 2500 pound carcass to Oahu on a c-130. It arrived Monday night at Barber's Point.

Scientists with NOAA and Hawaii Pacific University then took the whale in for a necropsy, or animal autopsy.

"There's nothing visual on the animal that would lead to something, a man-made type of problem," said Chris Yates, the Assistant Regional Administrator for the National Oceanic Atmospheric Association (NOAA) Fisheries Service.

In 2004, 150 whales were stranded in Kauai's Hanalei Bay. NOAA reported that sonar used in the Navy's RIMPAC exercises may have been to blame. The death of the whale on Molokai comes during this year's RIMPAC, but Yates says there's no evidence of any connection so far.

"Whales strand all the time for all sorts of reasons and what people should do and understand is to not associate a particular stranding with an activity until we've been able to look at the animal," he said.

NOAA is working with the military to tag some mammals and study their behavior during RIMPAC. The challenge is tagging deep-diving whales, such as the one that beached itself on Molokai.

"It's hard to pin these guys down. They're not the ones that you really see well from a boat," said Brenda Jensen of Hawaii Pacific University.

Scientists say results of the necropsy could take months.

NOAA says deep-diving whales are potentially more sensitive to certain types of noise, but it's not known to what extent.

About a dozen mammals get stranded each year. This is the eighth one this year.