The rare Blainville’s beaked whale that washed up dead on North Entrance Beach on July 23, most likely died of illness, according to initial necropsy reports.
Central Coast Dolphin Project Coordinator, Ronny Ling, assisted National Parks and Wildlife Services and Central Coast Council with the carcass recovery operation, and according to him, initial findings indicate that the young male had not been eating, had congested lungs and an enlarged spleen.
There were no signs of injury related to vessel strike, plastic ingestion or entanglement, further lending weight to the theory that the whale was unwell.
“Unfortunately, Parks and Wildlife had a difficult time getting machinery onto the beach due to the poor conditions following the storms,” Ling said.
“This meant that they were delayed in getting the specimen to Taronga Zoo for necropsy, which meant we missed the window to determine exact cause of death, but there’s still so much that can be learned from the specimen,” Ling sai d.
“Beaked and bottle-nosed whales are the rarest of whales, we still know so little about them, so well preserved specimens like this are amazing finds.
“They can tell us so much about these whales, what they’re eating and when, their family lines and so much more,” he added.
It’s understood the Blainville is not common to Central Coast waters but due to the sparsity of records on the species’ numbers and movements, it’s impossible to draw conclusions about why this particular whale washed up at The Entrance.
However, it’s possible that interference with its echolocation could have played a part.
“These whales usually inhabit the deeper waters off the continental shelf.
“They are the deepest diving of all whales and have been known to dive down to 4,600m.
“Off the shelf, they us e their echolocation to primarily hunt for squid in the darkness,” Ling said.
“Beaked and bottle nosed whales are unfortunately very sensitive to sound in the water, and military sonar and seismic testing can have devastating effects on them.
“If the Petroleum Exploration Permit 11 goes ahead, we could see more of these beautiful animals washing up on our shores,” he added.
Anyone who comes across marine mammals around the Coast is urged to contact Central Coast Dolphin Project who keep detailed records of sightings to build up a database on local marine life.