Biologists conducting an necropsy on a sperm whale that beached itself in the shallow waters of the Gulf of Mexico in the Florida Keys said they found man-made materials in the mammal’s stomach that likely contributed to its death.
Both deaths are being investigated, but federal and state scientists claim they don’t appear to be connected.
Carlisle Jones, spokeswoman with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, said the whale that died Tuesday–a 47-foot adult male–“had a mass of intertwined line, net pieces and a plastic bag type of material in its stomach. “
The items were discovered Wednesday by the federal biologists and the state agency conducting the necropsy (an animal autopsy) on the large mammal at Robbie’s Marina on Stock Island, near Key West. A boat towing company took the whale there the day before from where it was found off Mud Key, an island about 15 miles northeast of Key West.
” The debris probably did not allow the whale enough food, leading to its emaciated state and stranding,” Jones stated Thursday.
” The material from the stomach of the animal will be sent to Jones for analysis and determination.
Sperm Whales are listed under the Endangered Species Act as “endangered” and “depleted” under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. They are the largest of all toothed whales, and can be found in oceans around the globe, including the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean in South Florida.
They mostly live and hunt in very deep water, however, so it’s rare to see them near shore in the Keys where the water is typically shallow. They are often spotted in these areas because they are usually sick or in distress.
The calf that died last week still had an open umbilical cord when it was found on a small barrier island off John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park in Key Largo in the Upper Keys, said Blair Mase, southeast regional marine mammal stranding coordinator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Admini