DFO and ISO Scientists, with reps from BC Agriculture, complete a necropsy on the dead whale. Big knives and pikes were used to cut through the blubber. (Nick Murray/News Staff)

DFO and ISO Scientists, with reps from BC Agriculture, complete a necropsy on the dead whale. Big knives and pikes were used to cut through the blubber. (Nick Murray/News Staff)

Necropsy of grey whale rules out plastic poisoning

Emaciated, lice infested whale had no plastic in its stomach when it died near Victoria

Some findings from Friday’s grey whale necropsy have been released, with plastic ruled out as a cause of death.

The dead whale was spotted by a contractor on Thursday, April 4, between James and Sidney islands. The sighting was then called in using the 1-800- marine mammal hotline.

*Warning: This video contains graphic content and may not be suitable for all readers.

It was originally mistaken for a killer whale due to what appeared to be a huge dorsal fin sticking out of the water, but was actually the certain appendage of a grey whale.

The whale was towed by a Maritime Patrol Program boat around the Saanich Peninsula to the DFO base in North Saanich. There, the whale was inspected and found to be a sexually mature male, 12 metres in length and half its expected weight. The “fairly emaciated” whale was also riddled with “out of control” whale lice.

The necropsy, on Friday, April 5, was led by Dr. Stephen Raverty, Veterinary Pathologist of the BC Ministry of Agriculture, who is a specialist in whale necropsies and marine mammals.

A team of about 10 scientists and researchers from Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), the Institute of Ocean Sciences (IOS) and UBC students assisted Raverty.

Paul Cottrell, DFO regional marine mammal coordinator, said it was moving to work on such a majestic creature.

ALSO READ: Scientists warn warmer and more acidic oceans threaten marine life

“It’s sobering to work on such a huge mass of animal but it is so important to get information from it, especially as we’re looking at how to minimize or mitigate threats to this species as they are listed as a Special Concern.”

Cottrell ruled out plastic as a cause of death, saying none of the substance was found in its digestive system or stomach. At this time, the cause of death remains unclear and samples have been sent for further analysis.

The scientists who receive samples will test for heavy metals, contaminants and pathogens to try establish a definitive cause of death.

“This species is susceptible to entanglements and vessel strikes,” Cottrell said, adding, “We send samples away to see if there are any broader problems with the ecosystem.”

Cottrell reports that the DFO is collaborating with Southern Californian network NOAA to see if there are any wider threats to west coast whale populations.

ALSO READ: Slaying dragons: getting inside the minds of climate change skeptics

Decaying whales produce internal gases that can build up inside a whale and even cause small explosions as they break through tissue to escape. The April 5 necropsy had long gurgling escapes of gas and a small explosion with blood spraying the arms of Raverty.

“He is the expert and we are very lucky to have him lead the necropsy,” says Cottrell. “He knows when it can be dangerous. You can get covered in blood and have pathogens blown into your mouth so we let him do it as he is so used to it.”

The scientists said that necropsies offer a huge opportunity to better understand the animals and their ecosystem. They ask that if anyone sees a marine mammal that is “injured, distressed or entangled,” they call the 24/7 marine mammal hotline 1-800-465-4336.



nick.murray@peninsulanewsreview.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

General manager Lindsey Pomper says Sidney’s Star Cinema cannot wait welcome audiences when it reopens June 18, amid an easing of public health measures. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Sidney’s Star Cinema raises curtain for the first time after months in the darkness

Iconic theatre to reopen at half capacity for Friday night showing

A screenshot of the First Peoples Cultural Councils First Peoples’ Map. (First Peoples Cultural Council)
Online resource blends B.C.’s Indigenous language, art and culture

North Saanich advisor says initiative supports urgent need to preserve Indigenous languages

A dogs in parks pilot study unanimously approved by Saanich council will evaluate how park space can best be shared between dog owners and non-owners alike. (Photo by Megan Atkins-Baker/News Staff)
Saanich to study park-sharing strategy between those with and without pets

District-wide People, Parks and Dogs study to produce recommendations by fall

Staff member Lena Laitinen gives the wall at BoulderHouse a workout during a media tour on June 16. (Rick Stiebel/News Staff)
BoulderHouse raring to rock Langford

Popularity of bouldering continues to climb across Greater Victoria

The Sooke Potholes is a jewel in the community's crown. Transition Sooke hosts a town hall meeting on community growth on June 26. (Courtesy: Sooke News Mirror)
Sooke forum tackles community growth

To Grow or Not to Grow online town hall meeting set for June 26

Maxwell Johnson is seen in Bella Bella, B.C., in an undated photo. The Indigenous man from British Columbia has filed complaints with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal and the Canadian Human Rights Commission after he and his granddaughter were handcuffed when they tried to open a bank account. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Heiltsuk Nation, Damien Gillis, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
VIDEO: Chiefs join human rights case of Indigenous man handcuffed by police in B.C. bank

Maxwell Johnson said he wants change, not just words, from Vancouver police

(Black Press Media file photo)
POLL: When was the last time you visited the mainland?

The films are again lighting the screens at local theatres, the wine… Continue reading

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of June 15

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Tk’emlups te Secwepemc Chief Rosanne Casimir stands outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School after speaking to reporters, in Kamloops, B.C., on Friday, June 4, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Kamloops chief says more unmarked graves will be found across Canada

Chief Rosanne Casimir told a virtual news conference the nation expects to release a report at the end of June

A woman wears a vaccinated sticker after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. ranks among highest in world in COVID-19 first-dose shots: health officials

More than 76% of eligible people have received their 1st shot

An artists conception of the new terminal building at the Pitt Meadows Regional Airport.
Air travel taking off in B.C., but lack of traffic controllers a sky-high concern

There will be demand for more air traffic controllers: Miller

Canadian Armed Forces experts are on their way to North Vancouver after a local homeowner expressed worry about a military artifact he recently purchased. (Twitter DNV Fire and Rescue)
Military called in to deal with antique ‘shell’ at North Vancouver home

‘The person somehow purchased a bombshell innocently believing it was an out-of-commission military artifact’

Amy Kobelt and Tony Cruz have set their wedding date for February, hoping that more COVID-19 restrictions will have lifted. (The Macleans)
B.C. couples ‘gambling’ on whether COVID rules will let them dance at their wedding

Amy Kobelt and Tony Cruz pushed back their wedding in hopes of being able to celebrate it without the constraints of COVID-19

A plane is silhouetted as it takes off from Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C., May 13, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Report calls for airlines to refund passengers for flights halted due to COVID-19

Conclusion: federal help should be on the condition airlines immediately refund Canadian travellers

Most Read