Biologists work to learn cause of death for humpback whale found near Hope

A humpback whale spotted near Hope. Photo courtesy of Liam Bureau.
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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) A dead humpback whale originally discovered Tuesday morning along Turnagain Arm, near Hope, has reappeared with the tides.

The 42-foot body resurfaced in an area between miles 13 and 15 of Hope Highway. NOAA officials say the location of the whale is making access challenging, as it's only accessible for a few hours during low tide.

As of noon Wednesday, a combined team from Alaska SeaLife Center and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are at the site collecting samples from the whale. NOAA officials say the team was on scene last night between 9 p.m. and midnight collecting samples before the tide came back up.

"The samples they collect are skin samples, blubber samples, aqueous liquid from the eyes, and then if they're able to perform a full necropsy then they definitely do the internal examination of the whale," said Julie Speegle, NOAA.

At this time, biologists on scene have not determined a cause of death. The whale was a female, officials said.

This is the third humpback whale to be found dead in the past month. The first was killed by a cruise ship en route to Seward. The second, a whale nicknamed 'Festus,' was found dead in Glacier Bay over the weekend.

Festus was the longest-sighted humpback whale recorded in Southeast Alaska, with a 44-year sighting history.

NOAA officials say there has been increased interest from scientists to collect samples and understand the cause of death from whales washing up on Alaska's shores throughout the past year.

"Last year, we declared an unusual mortality event in the Gulf of Alaska," Speegle said. "We don't know the cause of that, and we are keeping an eye on the most recent whale mortality events to determine if they're included."

NOAA would like to remind the public that anyone who sees a dead or stranded marine mammal can report the sighting to the NOAA Fisheries hotline at (877) 925-7773.



 
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