Authorities had to euthanize a young sei whale that was found beached near Wilmington, North Carolina.
The 17-foot whale came ashore on Masonboro Island, a coastal preserve close to Carolina Beach.
In a statement to WECT News 6, marine biologist Ann Pabst said, “This animal was very, very thin. It wasn’t with its mom which it should have been. No food in the stomach, it was clear this animal hadn’t been eating for a while.”
Pabst told the station they did a necropsy, an autopsy for an animal, on the whale and found parts of plastic bags and seaweed in its throat.
“It was just a piece of trash that the animal found in the water. It’s so important to be really careful about what we put in the water because what we put in the water can end up in the mouth of a whale. We can’t say that that was the cause of the mortality and quite frankly I don’t think it was the cause, but it certainly didn’t help the animal in its debilitated state,” Pabst said.
“It wasn’t able to get food into the mouth so, we are not quite sure when that happened,” North Carolina State Stranding Coordinator William McLellan told WWAY. “It was either early on and it started the animal debilitating process or the animal could have been debilitated.”
A video of people attempting to save the whale by pouring buckets of water on her can be seen below.
SSei whales grow up to be 60 feet long and weigh up to 100,000 pounds while also living to be approximately 70 years old according to NOAA.
The sei whale population has been greatly decreased by commercial whaling. During the 19th and 20th centuries, sei whales were targeted and greatly depleted by commercial hunting and whaling, with an estimated 300,000 animals killed for their meat and oil.
Commercial whaling ended for this species in 1980. Although whaling is no longer a major threat to this species, some scientific whaling continues today in Iceland and Japan. Vessel strikes and entanglement pose the biggest threat to sei whales today. The sei whale is listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act and depleted under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.