(Garden Island / 10-02-2011) A boat is suspected of injuring a humpback whale spotted Monday morning in shallow waters off the Port Allen Airport.
However, the official cause of its apparently broken back remains undetermined, said Ed Lyman, a whale rescue expert with the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary on Maui.
“We don’t know,” Lyman said after viewing aerial images of the adult humpback. “Definitely something’s wrong with it.” A local flight instructor spotted and photographed the 50-plus-foot cetacean, which he continued to observe until about 1 p.m. It then disappeared.
After reviewing Charlebois’ photos, Lyman said the injury occurred in the whale’s mid-tail stock region, between its dorsal fin and tail. He added that it was light-colored, emaciated and had begun to slough-off skin. It also was surrounded by large numbers of whale lice — all indicators of a whale in poor health.
The humpback may have begun diving again or may have become less visible to Charlebois as it headed west toward Waimea. Murky runoff from the Waimea River decreases visibility in the water, Lyman said.
Although the whale is obviously injured, sanctuary staff members won’t be able to put it out of its misery, or likely learn the cause of its wound. First, they can’t find it. Secondly, the logistics of getting a humpback whale ashore are less than ideal. “There is no established technique for euthanizing a large whale”, Lyman said.