The excitement of a humpback whale in the river Thames quickly vanished after the whale was found dead two days after the first spotting. Now, a examination of the dead humpback revealed the cause of death as it likely being struck by a ship.
Scientists from the Zoological Society of London carried out the necropsy, identifying a wound that appeared to because by a ship which further investigation added merit to.
It was the team’s opinion that the injuries were most likely a result of shipstrike and this is considered to be the primary cause of death,” said Rob Deaville, CSIP project manager.
“It’s certainly possible that the whale was struck outside of the Thames and already had these injuries whilst it was seen swimming within the river at the beginning of the week,” he added in a statement.
The examination also reveals the whale had likely not eaten in a while as only parasites were found in the mammals intestines. The female whale measured in at 27 feet from head to fluke.
Whale deaths by ships have now become the norm worldwide as there are very little laws and regulations worldwide set in place to protect these cetaceans. It surprisingly is a challenge for whales to avoid large ship as the ships create something called a ‘bow null effect’ blocking the engine noise by the bow, creating a quiet zone in front of the vessel, and leaving a whale unaware of the pending threat.
While a number of technological efforts have been researched to reduce the risk of striking whales, none have yet proven viable. Some may even increase risk to whales, as they respond by surfacing, putting them further in harm’s way. The most effective means to reduce collisions between whales and vessels is to separate them, and when that can’t be done, slow the vessel down to a speed of 10kts or less. Efforts to protect endangered North Atlantic right whales have included both of these methods reducing the risk of a fatal collision along the US east coast by 80-90%.