HONOLULU (KHON2) — The Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) removed the large carcass of a humpback whale from the Waimānalo shoreline on Wednesday, April 14.
University of Hawaii researchers will study the whale to try to determine its cause of death.
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Samples of the whale are being assessed by researchers from the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology. Associate researcher Kristi West said, this is a rare opportunity to learn more about the health of ocean mammals.
At least three tiger sharks feasted on the carcass while it floated near the shore. West said, DLNR and researchers avoided interfering with the sharks’ instincts.
West said, “We find the samples really valuable but not so valuable that we want to compete with the sharks, I’ll tell you that.”
The whale carcass floated to shore over the night of Tuesday, April 13.
A Hawaiian blessing and pule from Kalani Kalima of Waimānalo followed Wednesday morning. State crews and contractors removed the 25- to 35-ton whale from the shore and transported it to private land where it was buried.
West said, this is a valuable opportunity to learn more about what lies below the ocean surface. The majority of whales die and sink into the sea, far from the hands of scientists.
Part of the research involves studying recovered baleen from the whale. The baleen serves as the whale’s filter-feeding system. This part allows researchers to trace the past three years of the whale’s migration, feeding patterns and potential threats to Hawaii’s marine life.
“We may be fortunate enough to have the right type of organ samples,” West said. “Depends on what’s exactly left to screen for diseases, and we know diseases are a major threat to Hawaiian dolphins and whales.”
West said, it is likely the whale died nearly a week before Tuesday based on tissue samples.
The Honolulu Department of Parks and Recreation will keep Waimānalo Bay Beach Park closed for the rest of Wednesday. They advise it is possible some tissue remains in the ocean and possibly on the beach. Shark signs will stay up until sharks are no longer seen in the area.