Authorities found fourteen dead sperm whales washed up on King Island on Monday, covered in blood. Australian wildlife officials are currently investigating the incident. King Island is part of the state of Tasmania. It sits between Melbourne, Australia, and Tasmania’s north coast in the Bass Strait.
A Marine Conservation Program with the Australian government traveled to the island today to investigate. Officials conducted necropsies on the whales to determine the cause of death. Currently, there have been no reports indicating what killed the whales. Authorities are planning for an aerial survey of the island to determine if there are any more than the initial 14 found.
According to the Department of Natural Resources and Environment, Tasmania is not an unusual place to see sperm whales. Additionally, the area around King Island is within the usual habitat of this species of whale.
“While further inquiries are yet to be carried out, it is possible the whales were part of the same bachelor pod – a group of younger male sperm whales associating together after leaving the maternal group,” said the department in a statement per NPR. They are warning swimmers and surfers to stay away from the area, as the carcasses will draw sharks to those waters.
Beloved Humpback Whale Killed Off the Coast of California
In late August, a 49-foot humpback whale was killed after she was struck by a ship off the coast of California. The whale, nicknamed Fran, washed ashore in Half Moon Bay on August 29. The Associated Press reported that Fran was the fifth whale killed in the area this year. She left behind a female calf, and Half Moon Bay residents are hopeful that she survives.
Resident and avid whale watcher Ferd Bergholz named Fran after his late wife after seeing the whale so many times on his whale-watching excursions. She actually appeared to him on his wife’s birthday. Ferd went to the Oceanic Society immediately and had her nickname set in stone. When he learned of her death, he posted on Facebook.
“I am very sad to report that ‘Fran,’ the Humpback Whale that I named after my late wife Fran, was the victim of a ship strike and washed up on a beach in Half Moon Bay,” he wrote. “There is no word yet about the calf she had this year. They were together in Monterey Bay a couple of months ago. A Very Sad Day.”
According to HappyWhale, a whale-watching database run by Ted Cheesman, Fran was the most popular whale in California. Watchers sighted her 277 times before she died.
Half Moon Bay Residents Hopeful for Fran’s Calf
In June, whale watchers saw the calf feeding on her own. Resident Don Baccus was present for that sighting and shared the news on Facebook. “We saw the calf surface lunging, scattering anchovies every which way, ventral pouch filled with water and possibly fish, not that much later,” he wrote. “The calf seemed well on its way to being able to feed.”
Local whale watchers and scientists are hopeful that the calf was weaned by the time Fran was killed. In that way, she has a chance of surviving on her own.