Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Whales not gonna take it

The most concerning and grimmest Puget Sound environmental news of the past week has got to be the maiming, followed by death, of a sei (or Bryde's) whale in the south Sound.

Not only were the injuries severe, the 34 foot long animal suffered a lingering death.

While mainstream media coverage began Dec. 1, Cascadia reports the earliest sighting may have been as far back as Nov. 13. That would mean 3 weeks leading up to the Dec. 4 death.

 Photos from Cascadia Research

There were at least five significant injuries, according to the necropsy, apparently from one or more vessel strikes.

Accidents happen. But really -- five strikes? One vessel five times, five vessels one time -- how do you hit a 34 foot long creature and just keep going? How do you live with yourself, boater(s) in question, leaving an intelligent mammal to die a slow death?

The priority ought to be reporting the injured animal so that veterinary help can respond as quickly as possible. Save this number: (800)853-1964, the NOAA Fisheries Hotline.

What's the law on collisions with marine mammals? The federal law is pretty expansive -- it's illegal to 'take' marine mammals, the definition of 'take' including just about any form of contact or near-contact imaginable.

Less clear is what boaters are supposed to do if they hit a marine mammal. Washington state law appears only to require reporting of accidents involving people and property.

If you see a hit & run between a boat and a marine mammal, I'd just radio the Coast Guard. There's also an outfit within NOAA called the Office Of Law Enforcement.

Come on, Puget Sound marine repair shops: drop dime on any boats that came in recently with bloody dented hulls or gore encrusted props.

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