Dead humpback whale calf found on Oahu's North Shore

Published On: Apr 16 2013 01:18:00 PM HST

Crews worked hard to get a dead baby humpback whale off the reef today at Kahuku Point.

KAHUKU, Hawaii -

Federal marine officials responded to a scene on Oahu's North Shore where a dead humpback whale calf was found Tuesday morning.

Crews with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration went to the site at Kahuku Point, about a mile from the Turtle Bay Resort.

The dead whale attracted a handful of spectators, including North Shore resident Scott Sundby, who operates Shaka Kayaks at Turtle Bay.

"Fortunately, I've been here for the birth of two monk seals within fifteen minutes after they were born to see that miracle. But in the other end of the spectrum, you've also got the death," said Sundby. " It's very unfortunate, (but) it is part of nature."

The male calf was found by a fisherman at around 6:30 a.m., according to NOAA.

"This is a very young humpback whale calf.  Maybe a couple of days to a couple of weeks old," said David Schofield, program manager for NOAA's Marine Mammal Health and Response Program.

NOAA removed the whale carcass at 2:15 p.m.

The whale weighs between 2,500-to-3,000-pounds and is 13-feet long, according to the state Department of Land and Natural Resources. City Lifeguards on a watercraft patrolled about a mile-long stretch of ocean from Kahuku Point to Turtle Bay to make sure anyone entering the ocean knew about the carcass. 

"Anytime you have a stranding like this it's going to attract large predators because of bodily fluids and blood in the water," said Schofield.

PHOTOS: Dead humpback whale calf at Kahuku Point

Click here to see more photos from the scene.

This is the fifth dead humpback whale calf to wash ashore in Hawaiian waters since the start of the year. Two washed ashore in January, and another two in February.

"Having five humpback whale calves in one season is a lot.  Usually, we only see 1-to-2 every other year, so it is above the average, and we are concerned about population health," said Schofield.

Federal, state and city officials were hoping to deliver the dead calf to Hawaii Pacific University where a necropsy could be performed. However, the carcass had to be released at sea shortly after being removed from the reef at 2:15 p.m.

As the whale was being towed behind a DLNR boat, tiger sharks began feeding on the carcass. In the name of public safety, the whale was cut loose about four miles off Waimea Bay before it ever reached Haleiwa Small Boat Harbor

Tissue samples taken from the dead animal will help determine if the whale was suffering from any kind of disease.

Schofield said test results have already cleared two of the whale calves that washed ashore earlier.

"The good news is that two of the four previous whales that were sampled showed negative results for the diseases that we're concerned about," he said.

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