PORT HOOD: The circumstances surrounding the death of a blue whale that washed ashore on Colindale beach remain unclear, and as a full necropsy is unable to be performed on the animal, no answers are forthcoming.
“We responded and collected as much information as we could on where it beached itself, but it was quite a remote location and there was only so much we could do,” said Andrew Reid, response coordinator for Marine Animal Response Society (MARS).
MARS is an organization dedicated to marine mammal conservation in the Maritimes. The society works in cooperation with industry, federal agencies, other non-governmental organizations, and local communities to document incidents like the one on Colindale beach.
“Typically we coordinate with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans on these issues, especially when dealing with larger whales,” Reid said. “It does require quite a bit of resources to move these animals, and the location where it was just wasn’t suitable for doing a full necropsy. It requires heavy equipment and quite a few people.
“It would have to have been moved, and DFO determined that they were not able to tow it at that time.”
Reid noted his group gathered as much external information as possible, including samples for research purposes.
“In a situation like this, we really do need that full necropsy to get a fairly confident idea of what the cause of death was,” he said. “We don’t like to speculate too much. We don’t want to implicate particular industries unless we’re very confident. Animals do die naturally as well.”
He said having a dead blue whale wash ashore is rare, given how few animals are left in Atlantic waters. The latest estimates suggest only 250 adult blue whales are left. Sadly, the Colindale Beach whale was fairly young, possibly just two years old. It washed up on September 18.
Around the same time as the Colindale incident, a second blue whale was found dead in the St. Lawrence River, but it was badly decomposed. That one was unable to be retrieved.
So far as Reid knows, there are currently no plans to remove the whale from Colindale Beach.
“In the province, there’s no specific government department mandated to remove the carcases,” he added.