Dead whale may have died in collision with ship

Posted: Tuesday, July 24, 2001

JUNEAU (AP) -- A female humpback whale found dead in waters near Glacier Bay National Park was likely killed by a collision with an oil tanker or cruise ship, park officials said Monday.

A necropsy of the whale determined it died from massive head injuries, the National Park Service said. The whale had been dead up to two weeks before its carcass was found July 16 floating about 55 miles northwest of Juneau near the entrance of Glacier Bay.

Biologists determined the whale was pregnant when it died.

Jed Davis, deputy superintendent of Glacier Bay National Park, said most of the marine traffic in that area consists of cruise ships.

''We will be conducting interviews primarily with cruise ship captains,'' Davis said.

Humpback whales are protected under the federal Endangered Species Act. Park regulations prohibit vessels from operating within 1/4 mile of a humpback whale and require captains to change course and speed to maintain that distance.

Crews also are required to report collisions with any objects in park waters to park superintendents within 24 hours.

It was not clear Monday whether the animal was killed in park waters.

The whale was examined on Sunday by Dr. Frances Gulland of the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, Calif. It is beached near Point Gustavus.

The whale was identified by distinctive markings on its tail as Number 68, first sighted in 1979 as an adult in Seymour Canal in Southeast Alaska, park officials said.

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