Norfolk, Va. – A 42-foot dead whale washed up near 1st View Street in the Ocean View section of Norfolk Sunday morning.
The Virginia Aquarium Stranding Response Team identified the whale as a male sei (pronounced ‘say’) whale. According to the Stranding Response Team, a deep 1.5 ft. gash on the back of its head – fracturing the skull – coupled with traces of orange and brown paint or rust suggests that it was hit by a ship or boat.
Whether the whale was alive at the time of the boat strike will be determined during a necropsy. “The whale’s skin and organs are still intact and in good condition, indicating that the animal has not been dead for long,” said Susan Barco, senior scientist of the Aquarium’s Stranding Response Program.
“The next step is to get the whale out of the surf which requires the help of the City of Norfolk,” said Barco. “Since Monday is a city holiday and the weather conditions are expected to be unfavorable today and tomorrow, the Virginia Aquarium Stranding Response Team anticipates performing a necropsy on Tuesday or Wednesday. Meanwhile, we will have team members on site periodically to monitor the whale. Even in death, whales such as the sei whale are protected by the federal marine mammal protection act and people should stay away from the animal, but looking and taking pictures is certainly allowed.”
This year Virginia Aquarium Winter Wildlife Boat Trip guests have seen numerous humpbacks and two fin whales. Typically sei whales feed in the same grounds and follow prey inshore. Last March there was a female sei whale that stranded in Sandbridge. The whale’s death was the result of a boat strike and its stomach contents contained plastic. Sei whales are designated by NOAA as endangered species.
To report a dead or live stranded marine mammal or sea turtle call the Virginia Aquarium Stranding Response Program 24-hour hotline at (757) 385-7575.