NOAA Investigates Whale Struck By Cruise Ship

Rosemarie Alexander, KTOO – Juneau

On Friday, nearly a dozen NOAA scientists conducted a necropsy on a 43-foot female humpback whale struck Wednesday by a Princess Cruise ship.

They’re trying to determine if the whale died from the blow, or was injured, or dead, before the Sapphire Princess struck.

The carcass was removed Wednesday from the ship’s bulbous bow and beached on the backside of Douglas Island in a spot suitable for the necropsy.

NOAA spokeswoman Julie Speegle says a team of marine mammal biologists took preliminary samples Thursday in preparation for today’s necropsy.  They also measured the whale.

Initial observations indicated the whale was a juvenile humpback, but it turned out to be much bigger. Female humpbacks generally measure between 35 and 45 feet in length.

Speegle says NOAA Law Enforcement officers also have begun their investigation and have a good idea now as to when the Sapphire Princess hit the whale.

She says NOAA’s law enforcement team has interviewed the ship’s captain and some officers and is still in the process of gathering and reviewing evidence.

She says today’s necropsy team is led by veterinarians from NOAA Fisheries and the Alaska Sea Life Center.

Photo courtesy of Julie Speegle, NOAA: Crews work to dislodge the whale from the front of the Sapphire Princess.

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