Officials: 20 whales spotted closer to shore

2013-12-07 09:28

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories


Sperm whale explodes - warning graphic content

2013-11-28 15:24

A whale died of natural causes and exploded off the coast of Denmark's Faroe Islands due to pressure build-up caused by its rotting intestines. Warning - graphic content. WATCH

Everglades National Park - Twenty whales believed to be part of a pod found stranded in the Everglades this week were spotted on Friday afternoon moving closer toward shore, a sign they may be reversing their earlier, positive course, wildlife officials said.

The whales were about five nautical miles (10km) from the coast, 1.6km closer than on Thursday.

"I am definitely concerned to hear about their behaviour, that they are less organised, that they seem to be swimming very slowly," National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration stranding coordinator Blair Mase told reporters. "They may have gotten to the point where they are exhausted."

Earlier on Friday, officials had been hopeful the whales were headed back to the deeper, colder waters that form their natural habitat about 32km out to sea. On Thursday, a Coast Guard helicopter spotted three pods of about 35 whales that had moved 9.6km offshore and into water about 5m. 

"They could dive, they were swimming, and they had a straight shot to their home range," Mase said of the short-finned pilot whales. "And they didn't take it."

Mase said the whales' apparent movement inshore raises concerns something may be preventing them from going further out to sea, such as an illness.

Eleven of the 51 whales spotted by a fishing guide on Tuesday have died. Six were found dead on Wednesday morning, and four were euthanised. Another died on Thursday.

Necropsies on the deceased whales did not reveal any significant initial findings, though they did have empty stomachs, indicating their health may have been compromised.

Scientists were awaiting the results of pathology tests to see whether there was any evidence of disease.

According to NOAA, pilot whales have been known to carry the morbillivirus, which can cause skin lesions, pneumonia, brain and other infections.

A Coast Guard flyover on Friday morning spotted only seven whales. Two others that appeared to be closer to shore turned out to be dolphins, Mase said.

The larger group of whales could not be located.

But by Friday afternoon, Mase said the seven whales had joined a larger group of 20 heading south and inshore. There is no land in the immediate vicinity for them to beach themselves, she said.

On Wednesday, wildlife workers formed a semi-circle around the whales and used anchor chains to bang against their boats and try to herd the whales out of the shallow waters near the remote Everglades beach where they were found. Mase said it was unlikely they would move forward with herding efforts again.

More tired

"If they're trying to come inshore because that's their natural instinct, and we're pushing them out, we're getting them more and more tired," she said.

At some point, "We have to stand back and let nature take its course," she said.

From the start, NOAA and National Park Service officials have said the short-finned pilot whales faced significant hurdles. To get to deeper waters they faced a series of sandbanks, tributaries and patches of shallow water that Mase said were "almost like a maze."

Read more on:    us  |  marine life

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.