Minke whale spends time in Harbour Grace
A Minke whale beached itself along the shores of Harbour Grace this past week, with officials from DFO and other whale rescue groups noting that the creature’s health was rapidly declining.
A minke whale attracted a lot of attention in Harbour Grace last week as it swam close to the shoreline.
After the whale found itself stuck in shallow waters a few times, the marine mammal found its way back to the ocean Tuesday afternoon, June 19. Residents started taking notice of the creature the day before. As of The Compass’ print deadline, it had not been spotted again.
Wayne Ledwell of Whale Release and Strandings, a nonprofit group that responds to situations regarding marine animals caught in ice or stranded on shorelines, spoke with The Compass last Tuesday about the whale, which was widely believed to be dead. Ledwell, however, explained that the whale was in fact alive and had swam around the harbour for a couple hours before disappearing again, presumably further out into the depths of the ocean and out of Ledwell’s sight.
“We went down there and the whale had actually moved out of that area where it breached, so I thought it could either be dead, or had moved on,” he explained. “We followed it all the way down to the government wharf, and that was it. The whale was alive when we left. Right now, as far as I know, it’s gone out as far as the harbour. We went out a bit further, thinking it would come back to marina, but never saw it after that.”
He added that the crew spent further time looking for it after losing sight of the whale but had no luck, assuming that the animal had gained back some energy after the tide rolled in, and gave itself a second chance at life.
Had the whale been found dead, Ledwell said the plan would have been to work with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to perform an autopsy and look at the creature’s insides and internal organs. He said they would be looking for an obvious cause behind the whale’s state, which he noted was not good.
“When (the whale) was going along, it was coming up out of the water and there was a lot of kelp around the spout and dorsal fin,” he said of the creature’s behaviour. “You can tell when a whale is sick. They’re supposed to be a bit round and almost fat, but this one was far from that. You could see the tips of its vertebrae sticking out of its back, and it was very concave. You could also see its shoulder blades, which you obviously shouldn’t be able to do. To me, it looked like a whale that was going to die.”
According to Ledwell, it is common for whales of this species to beach themselves when they feel as though their time has come. Judging by the clear health problems this particular whale was facing, Ledwell was not surprised to know that it had situated itself into the shores of Harbour Grace.
If it does show up in Harbour Grace or a neighbouring town again, Ledwell said it would be up to the municipality to properly dispose of the carcass, as is the case with any incorporated town or community in the province. From there, the body would likely be towed away to another beach or buried.
A minke whale was spotted swimming near the wreck of the S.S. Kyle last week in Harbour Grace.
Observers were keeping a close eye on this minke whale on Monday, June 18.