AN opportunity to study a specimen of a blue whale that does not normally visit Namibian waters has come in the form of a dead animal that was floating in the Atlantic Ocean off Walvis Bay.
The dead whale floating belly-up in the water was spotted by the crew of a Laramon Tours vessel during a tour of the harbour area on Monday morning.
A crew member, Johnathan Morgan, took some pictures of the massive marine mammal and sent it to the volunteers of the Namibia Dolphin Project for identification purposes because of its unusual colouring and other physical features.
According to Bridget James, a volunteer at the dolphin project, the markings and pectoral fin that could be seen from the surface has them thinking that the floating carcass might be that of a blue whale, the largest species of whale found in the oceans.
“It is a very unusual looking whale for the area. The colouring and speckles on the body of the animal makes me think it might be a blue whale. It is definitely not a humpback whale,” she said.
James said that sample specimens will have to be collected to make absolutely sure and if it is found to be blue whale it will definitely be a first for the area of Walvis Bay.
“It seems as if the whale sustained some form of injury to its belly at the root of its pectoral fin that might have been a contributing factor to its death. Until we could collect some specimens from the animal the best we could say with certainty what species it is and how it died. Unless some Good Samaritan is willing to take us out on the water we would have to wait for the body to beach before we could collect specimens,” she said.
Humpback whales are currently busy migrating north to their breeding grounds in the waters off equatorial West Africa and several live animals have already been spotted.
The migration season is also a time where quite a number of dead whales wash ashore and in this regard, a dead humpback whale was spotted on a beach at Canopy just north of Henties Bay about a week ago.
Blue whales can reach a length of almost 30 metres and normally keep to the North Atlantic and Pacific Oceans although the species was up until the end of the 19th century abundant in nearly all the oceans on Earth.
The whale species was hunted to the point of almost complete extinction by whalers until the International Whaling Commission banned all blue whale hunting in 1966.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature has listed blue whales as endangered as of 2018.
Blue whales continue to face numerous deadly man-made threats like ship strikes, pollution, ocean noise and climate change, as well as natural threats such as predation from killer whales.