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Dead bowhead whale found near Tuk
Beached whales not uncommon; 24 events on record between 1987 and 2014: DFO

John McFadden
Northern News Services
Monday, August 31, 2015

It may have been a little unsettling, even morbid to see and likely attracted some curious onlookers, but an official with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) says at this point, there is no reason to link the death of a beached bowhead whale near Tuktoyaktuk with about 30 beached whales in Alaska and B.C. earlier this summer.

NNSL photo/graphic

This aerial photo shows a decomposing bowhead whale near Tuktoyaktuk on Aug 21. The Dept. of Fisheries and Oceans learned about the beached whale on Aug. 20. Officials with the department stated they do not know what killed the whale but do not think it is linked to the death of dozens of other whales this summer off the B.C. and Alaska coast. - photo courtesy of Dept. of Fisheries and Oceans

Rosaleen O'Mahony, spokesperson for DFO said it is not known what killed the bowhead that washed up on the shore of the Arctic Ocean near Toker Point, about 25 kilometres north of Tuktoyaktuk.

She stated in an e-mail that the department received a report about the beached whale on Aug. 20.

"While the cause of death is currently undetermined there is no reason at this time to link this mortality to the unusual deaths of whales in B.C. and Alaska," O'Mahony stated.

"Beachcast bowheads are not uncommon in this region, with 24 events on record between 1987 and 2014."

Further sampling is ongoing in an attempt to determine a possible cause of death and biological information including gender and age, O'Mahony stated.

"However, results may not be conclusive due to the position and state of decomposition of the bowhead," she stated.

"As the bowhead whale carcass is in an isolated location and does not pose a risk to the public, the intention is to leave the whale carcass in place to decompose naturally.It is outside of the department's mandate to dispose of marine mammal carcasses."

The bowhead is 9.2 metres in length but due to the position of the whale in the water and its state of decomposition, DFO officials were unable to determine its weight.

Biologists have collected samples in an attempt to determine more biological information, including sex.

Since last May, about 30 whales, of different species, have washed up on the shores of B.C. and western Alaska. Scientists have yet to determine exactly what caused their deaths.

The whale will undoubtedly attract polar bears, said Jackie Jacobsen, MLA for Nunakput, which includes Tuktoyaktuk and Toker Point. He said he was a little surprised DFO won't be removing the whale.

"I guess we are on our own. We as a community can't do that. It's 25 clicks away. It would be a tough pull and there are safety issues. It might not be worth it," Jacobsen said.

He added that although no one lives in the area, there are a number of cabins in that region.

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