Large dead whale spotted just miles off Kaneohe Bay shoreline

Published On: Dec 24 2013 08:02:23 AM HST   Updated On: Oct 25 2013 06:58:35 AM HST
KANEOHE, Hawaii -

A big dead whale that could mean big problems.

Click here to watch Nana Ohkawa's report.

A sperm whale carcass was reported just miles off the windward side of Oahu's shore. It was moving quickly from 12 miles off shore Wednesday night to just five miles away on Thursday.  

The Department of Land and Natural Resources said as it moves closer, it could cause major safety hazards.

The sperm whale's carcass floating off Kaneohe Bay is covered in bite marks with large chunks ripped away.

"When you look closely at it you see all these holes in it as a result of cookie cutter sharks coming up and biting into it. The belly itself is where the bigger sharks had been eating and you can actually see the rib cage sticking out," said Brad Peebles.

Photographer, Peebles, boarded a helicopter, capturing images of the rotting whale, which the DLNR said is 30 to 40 feet long.

"I have not seen a whale carcass like that and I was in awe of the sheer size of the whale," said Peebles.

That sheer size is attracting a lot of fish and in turn, plenty of fisherman. The problem is it can also attract a lot of sharks creating a danger as it approaches land.

Last year on the Big Island, tiger sharks swarmed a 50 feet long sperm whale just offshore.

Also, once onshore there could be other issues. Two years ago near Punaluu Beach Park on Oahu, authorities were forced to bring in heavy equipment to remove a dead whale rotting on the sand.

"Once it gets on land it smells and it continues to draw sharks to the area. We can't just leave it there it's not good for public safety, for home owners, it's not good for recreation," said Elia Herman with the DLNR.  

The DLNR said each year up to four sperm whale carcasses drift ashore. Most end up on the windward side, though marine life experts can't explain why. In each case, they try to figure out how the whale died, but often, that's difficult to know.

"This sperm whale could have died from natural causes, could have died from disease, from human interaction, something like a vessel strike. Given how decomposed the whale is its really hard to know, so we will probably never know why this particular whale died," said Herman.

The DLNR said it can be helpful if people fish around the carcass, but safety is always a concern.

Experts will continue to assess the situation to see if the whale needs to be handled out in the ocean or on land.


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