Researchers Investigate Endangered Whale That Washed Ashore in Mississippi
The deceased fin whale was 30 feet long and weighed nearly 15,000 pounds
A rare whale recently came up dead on a Mississippi Gulf Coast beach. The corpse of a whale was spotted on Saturday, January 7, approximately 200 yards near a beach in the town of Pass Christian. According to a Facebook post, city officials helped drag the corpse to the shore. On the beach, researchers from the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies (IMMS) quickly identified it as a fin whale.
“The whale is 30 feet long and weighs between 12,000 and 15,000 pounds,” Dr. Moby Solangi, director of the IMMS, told the Gazebo Gazette. “The mammal was probably sick and the body got caught in a ship channel.”
According to NOAA Fisheries, the fin whale is the second-largest whale species on the planet, behind blue whales. They’re named for the distinctive fins on their backs. Members of the species are typically “found in deep, offshore waters of all major oceans, primarily in temperate to polar latitudes.” Fin whales feed primarily on krill and can reach weights of 80 tons.
Fin whale populations were dramatically reduced due to commercial whaling operations in the mid-1900s. The species is currently listed under the Endangered Species Act. Researchers from the IMMS say it’s unusual for a fin while to be spotted in the Gulf of Mexico—and are currently performing a necropsy on the deceased giant.
“Teams from all over the South region have come to take part in this event,” wrote the IMMS in a Facebook post. “Since 2002, there have only been three fin whale strandings in the Gulf of Mexico, two in Texas and one in Florida. This is the first fin whale stranding reported in Mississippi.”
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Researchers and local officials hope the results of the necropsy will give more insight into what caused the death of the fin whale. “We’d just like to learn from this,” Pass Christian mayor Jimmy Rafferty told WLOX. “How could this happen? What could be done to prevent it and so forth? I think it’s really just a great learning experience.”