The whale that was euthanised after becoming beached at the Jawbone Marine Sanctuary in Williamstown late last month was pregnant and sick from ingesting rubbish, an investigation has concluded.
The 2.4 metre-long pygmy sperm whale was first discovered by a commercial fisherman in the mid-afternoon of 21st May 2018, but after all significant rescue attempts failed, authorities euthanised the whale to prevent prolonged suffering of the animal.
Hours were spent trying to save the whale in a rescue operation involving the combined efforts of The Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP), Parks Victoria, Zoos Victoria and Victorian Fisheries Authority.
The whale’s body was taken to Werribee Zoo where a necropsy was conducted in order to determine what caused the whale to become beached, with results revealing the whale died from having its stomach impacted with plastic and kelp.
In a statement to Willy and Hobby, DELWP Senior Wildlife Officer Suriya Vij urged the public to dispose of rubbish properly and said the findings are a huge reminder of the devastating impacts human waste has on our wildlife.
“There are rules and regulations in place to protect both humans and marine mammals. Penalties up to $3000 can apply to people that dispose of food or waste in the water within the caution zone of a marine mammal,” Ms Vij said.
Melbourne Zoo’s Head of Veterinary Sciences Dr Michael Lynch described the findings of plastic in the whale’s stomach as “very disturbing” and also reminded the community and visitors to not throw plastic and other rubbish into the bay.
“All types of plastics and foreign materials, including balloons and attachments can end up on oceans and waterways, harming marine life and sea birds through ingestion and entanglement,” Dr Lynch said.
Any sightings of stranded or entangled whales should be reported to the whale and dolphin emergency hotline on 1300 136 017.