A boat may have broke an ailing whale’s back off the Hawaiian cost.
During a whale watching flight, a pilot spotted the badly injured whale. In addition to the appeared break between its fin and tail, the whale was emaciated, light-colored, surrounded by whale lice and had begun to slough off skin — all signs of poor health.
“This is one of the most disturbing sights I’ve ever experienced while photographing whales,” said the pilot Gerry Charlebois, owner of Birds in Paradise Flight School. “It was freaky. The whale was bent in half. Obviously some kind of blunt force trauma on the side. The poor guy was in trouble.”
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Charlebois suspects that a large boat or ship struck the whale, who was too old or sick to move out of the ship’s way. No one has confirmed the cause of injury.
Staff members at the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary would like to euthanize the whale, although they doubt they’ll be able to put the whale out of its misery. They can’t currently find it and the logistics of bringing a humpback to shore are tricky.
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During the winter months, many of the 2,000 humpback whales living off the coast of Alaska migrate south to Hawaii’s warm waters. As a result, whale watching is a major part of Hawaii’s tourism industry.