DEEP wounds the carcass of a whale that washed ashore at Dolphin Beach near Walvis Bay indicate that the animal might have died as a result of being struck by a ship in the open ocean.
A harbour tour operator spotted the dead whale floating in the Atlantic Ocean off Walvis Bay early on Monday morning and at the time it was suspected that it might be a blue whale, which is a very rare sight in Namibia so close into shore.
The carcass washed ashore sometime during Monday night which gave marine biologists and conservationists a rare opportunity to study the animal up close.
According to Bridget James from the Namibian Dolphin Project, the carcass was identified as that of an 18-metre-long female blue whale.
“This must be the first time in recent history that a blue whale washed ashore on the Namibian coast. They normally keep to the deep water of the ocean and because their numbers are so low these are rarely spotted,” she said.
She said that the carcass on the beach made it possible to assess the animal in more detail.
“It has a deep cut on one of its pectoral fins and the animal also had damage to its mouth which indicates that it might have collided with a ship out in the deep ocean. The injuries caused by a ship strike are the most likely cause of its death,” she said.
She said that conducting a full necropsy is out of the logistical and financial capabilities of the Namibian Dolphin Project but specimen samples taken from the dead whale will be sent away for genetic analysis that would shed more light on the origins of the blue whale.
James said that passive acoustic monitoring of the low-frequency calls produced by blue whales indicates an increase in Namibian waters in recent years.