POSTED: 31 JULY 2008 - 7:30am HST

Rare Beaked Whale Dies

image above:Still from KHON2-TV video of beaked whale removal from ocean

RIMPAC Blaimed For Beached Whale
by on 29 July 2008

Environmentalists are blaming the Navy's RIMPAC exercises for a whale beaching itself on Molokai.

The whale repeatedly "stranded itself" on Molokai Monday, and a veterinarian euthanized the whale in the afternoon, officials said.

The Navy said it would be "speculative" to connect the whale's death to its exercises in the Pacific Ocean this month, but environmental lawyers who have sued the Navy over sonar's effect on whales in the past said the Navy's response is a "disgrace."

The 2,500-pound whale went ashore at Kawela Beach, north of Kaunakakai on Molokai, and kept stranding himself even after volunteers pushed him back into the ocean several times.

Scientists said it is a Cuvier's beaked whale that lives in deep water. Now, they are trying to figure out why it beached himself.

"People should understand that whales strand for all sorts of reasons," said Chris Yates of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries Division.
A veterinarian administered euthanasia by injection to the whale, and the Coast Guard transported it to Oahu.

Scientists from Hawaii Pacific University performed a necropsy on the whale, but they said may never know what caused its death.

"There's so many things that could happen to the animal, that we can't necessarily point to one thing, but if we can rule out a lot of different things, then we can at least narrow it down," HPU professor Brenda Jensen said.

The death happened during the Rim of the Pacific military exercises, when 35 naval ships from 10 countries hold exercises in waters around Hawaii.
Paul Achitoff of EarthJustice sued the Navy, saying it failed to properly protect whales from sonar.

"When one does strand at the same time that the Navy is using their sonar, you certainly have to wonder if there's a connection, and there's a good possibility that there is," Achitoff said.

A spokesman for the U.S. Navy's Pacific Fleet said, "There's no indication that Naval activities, RIMPAC or otherwise, caused or contributed to the whale's stranding."

Achitoff said the type of whale that stranded itself is the one most frequently hurt or killed by Navy sonar.

"Eighty-five percent of all of the whales that have been found stranded as a result of the Navy's sonar have been Cuvier's beaked whales," Achitoff said.
Since January 2007, the Navy has agreed to power down its sonar if spotters see a whale within 1,000 feet of a Navy ship.

Earlier this year, a federal judge in Honolulu ordered the Navy to take additional measures to reduce the risk of harm to marine mammals, but the order did not specifically apply to the RIMPAC exercises, which end Wednesday.

Rarely seen beaked whale dies on Molokai
by Marisa Yamane on 28 July 2008 for

A rarely seen sea mammal beached itself on Molokai today.

Residents and visitors made numerous attempts to save the beaked whale, but late this afternoon, the animal had to be euthanized.

Beaked whales sort of looks like dolphins.

They usually spend their time deep in the ocean, so you wouldn't usually see them if you went whale watching.

We spoke with Drew Murphy of Aina Haina and his daughter Maile -- who tried to help save the 2000-pound animal.

Around 7 o'clock Monday morning, Drew Murphy spotted the beaked whale while he was kayaking, about 4 1/2 miles east of Kaunakakai.

He says the animal was about 100 yards offshore, on a mudflat.

"It was pointing into shore struggling somewhat trying to get ashore," said Drew Murphy by phone from Molokai.

Murphy called NOAA's Marine Mammal Response Team to alert them about the situation.

"Myself and some other local fellows tried to see if we could turn the animal so it could swim out off the beach instead of onto the beach. As the tide rose the animal did free himself and we blockaded it to prevent it from coming toward the beach which worked partially," said Murphy.

Murphy says the beaked whale swam offshore, but it later beached itself a second time, about a mile east.

By then NOAA crews had arrived.

"The animal was in in poor enough shape that it warranted euthanizing it," said Murphy.

Beaked whales are deep sea animals that feed on or near the ocean floor.
They are the deepest diving air-breathing animals known, and are among some of the world's most rarely seen mammals.

Beaked whales are highly sensitive to sonar waves, but no word yet on what caused this whale to beach itself.

NOAA crews told the Murphys that the whale may have just been sick.

"It's probably a natural thing they said that normally a deep sea animal they said sickness probably drove it to beach itself and then beyond that it got more and more hurt while it was here," said Maile Murphy by phone from Molokai.

"No visible injuries other than what's described as reef rash, you know on its belly," said Drew Murphy.

The whale's carcass was flown to Oahu by the Coast Guard tonight.

NOAA's partners at Hawaii Pacific University will do a necropsy -- to hopefully find out what may have caused the animal to beach itself.

Beached Whale Struggles on Kawela Coast
by Zalina Alvi on 31 July 2008 in The Molokai Dispatch

Off-island specialists decide to put whale down after hours of help from the community.

Members of the community, firemen, and off-island marine specialists all pitched in to try and help the injured and sick beaked whale today.

The community was out in full force today when a beaked whale found itself injured and sick along the Kawela coast, but despite the efforts of many, the day ended with a death.

Local residents, off-island marine specialists and firemen spent hours in and around the water trying to help the whale as it struggled just off the coast around mile markers five and six on the East End.

The approximately 2,000-pound whale was found at around 7 a.m. by vacationer Drew Murphy, who noticed the whale struggling in a mud flat and summoned his daughter, Miley, to take their kayaks to try to help the animal back into the ocean.

They were soon joined in their efforts by neighbors Uncle Mel Paoa and his boys, as Murphy made a call to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). By the time NOAA Pacific Island Regional Stranding Coordinator Dave Schofield arrived from Oahu, the whale had swum away from the beach towards Lanai.

Schofield and a few local firemen then spent a few hours on jet skiis attempting to herd the whale back to Molokai because it was likely injured or ill and would require their assistance.

The whale was eventually eased into the shallow waters and kept safe in a special tarp as Schofield waited to consult with a veterinarian from the National Marine Fisheries who was to arrive from Honolulu.

As onlookers and concerned residents flocked to the scene, where fire trucks, construction vehicles, and a truck filled with potable water stood waiting for the unfortunate animal, more helped arrived.

Members of the Hawaii Pacific University’s Marine Mammal Stranding Team, local NOAA volunteer Diane Pike, local aquatic biologist Bill Puleloa with the Department of Aquatic Resources, and the Department of Public Works all pitched in to make the whale comfortable while the situation was assessed.
After inspecting the whale and consulting with the other specialists present, the veterinarian determined that despite their best efforts, it would have to be put down.

Schofield explained that in this case, where a beaked whale is coming ashore over and over again, the animal is clearly sick and the best thing to do is to put it down. He said, unfortunately, none of the facilities on the other islands were equipped to handle a whale of that size at the time.

He also confirmed that the animal had some cookiecutter shark marks under its belly, which had been bleeding.

It remains unclear what the causes of the whale’s illness where, although blood samples were taken and an autopsy will be performed on Oahu this week to investigate. The U.S. Coastguard C-130 was on call at the time to take the whale back to Oahu.

Please check the Aug. 7 issue of The Molokai Dispatch for a full look into what happened today, and the results of the investigation into this unfortunate death.

See also:
Island Breath: RIMPAC 2008 7/2/08
Island Breath: RIMPAC 2006 7/9/06
Island Breath: RIMPAC 2006 impact 5/23/06
Island Breath: RIMPAC 2004 Strandings  9/2/0