A humpback whale calf has been spotted in the Pacific Ocean swimming around with no tail fluke.
The wound was revealed to shocked observers, who caught it on camera, as the whale was trying to dive near the Colombian town of Nuqui.
It is feared that the humpback whale will not survive. Although the calf appeared to be moving normally, it is missing a vital part of its body. The tail fluke is essential for all whales as they travel and migrate through the sea and is vital as they dive for food. The tail fluke is moved up and down by powerful muscles in the tail stock, helping the animal to swim effectively and efficiently through the water. It is feared that this particular whale could die from infections due to the injuries it has sustained, or due to starvation as it struggles to feed.
The most likely cause of this injury and amputation is entanglement in fishing nets – one of the greatest threats to cetaceans. It is believed that the whale’s tail was caught up in disguarded fishing gear, which cut the circulation off to the tail fluke, and cut into the whale, eventually leading to the tail being lost. Members of Macuaticos Foundation, a marine conservation organisation, who searched for the whale for a week and caught it on camera, are working with local villagers to encourage them to change their fishing practises so they pose less of a threat to marine wildlife.
It is estimated that around 640,000 tonnes of new fishing gear is lost and abandoned across the world’s oceans ever year and to prevent further horrific incidents to whales in this area of The Pacific Ocean, fisherman have been asked and urged to take their nets to shore with them rather than leaving them out at sea.
Earlier this year two members of the ORCA team were in The Pacific Ocean with Silversea to carry out ORCA’s first ever survey in this sea region. During their voyages, the team saw an incredible 232 Humpback whales, with an incredible total of over 100 sighted in just one day near the coastline of San Francisco. We hope that we can continue to survey these magnificent creatures for years to come and that people in these areas will make a change to protect the marine life around them.