Endangered whale filmed swimming with beachgoers dies after stranding on sandbar

Endangered whale filmed swimming with beachgoers dies after stranding on sandbar

An endangered whale that was filmed swimming with beachgoers near a Western Australia beach died after becoming stuck on a sandbar, officials said. 

The elderly sperm whale was first seen on Saturday afternoon, and it beached itself on Monday, according to the BBC. Swimmers were seen interacting with the whale until experts warned of the danger such actions could pose to both the whale and the people. 

On Tuesday morning, officials from the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions said that the 30-ton whale had died at around 6:30 a.m. local time. Mark Cugley, a spokesperson for the department, told reporters that the whale swam a short distance that morning, but the whale’s respiration “gave us some signs it really was coming to the end.” 

The beached whale. 

Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions

Cugley said it’s still not clear why the whale approached shore, but said its “health was not good” and said it exhibited concerning behaviors, like swimming in tight circles. The whale did not have any injuries or obvious disease, but there will be a necropsy performed once the whale is removed from the ocean. 

said in a statement on social media, and crews stayed in the area overnight to make sure that people and boats stayed away from the whale. Cugley said the whale will be removed from the water and transported to a landfill by crane. 

There was a vigil on shore Tuesday afternoon, officials said, with an indigenous group holding what officials called a smoking ceremony to “pay respects to the cultural significance of this whale stranding.” The ceremony included “sharing whale dreaming stories, song and dance.” 

Update 5:15pm – A smoking ceremony was held to pay respects to the cultural significance of this whale stranding on…

Posted by Parks and Wildlife Service, Western Australia on Tuesday, December 12, 2023

“We’d like to thank the traditional owners for sharing with us their knowledge and understanding of this event,” parks and wildlife service officials said on social media.

Visitors to the beach are still being asked to stay out of the water. Cugley said that any prospective visitors to the area watch for potential beach closures or other disruptions as they work to remove the whale, in part to minimize shark risks, the BBC reported. 

Though found in all deep oceans from the equator to the Arctic and Antarctic, sperm whales are endangered in Australia and most parts of the world. Whaling decimated sperm whale populations worldwide for centuries, but since a moratorium on commercial whaling in 1986, the species has started to recover, and its numbers are likely increasing, according to NOAA

Kerry Breen

Source: cbsnews.com