JUNEAU (AP) -- The U.S. Park Service has confirmed that a cruise ship was responsible for killing a pregnant humpback whale this summer near Glacier Bay National Park.
The 45-foot endangered whale was found floating inside park boundaries on July 16. Its skull was so heavily damaged that park officials determined quickly that a large vessel had killed the whale.
Jed Davis, Glacier Bay's deputy superintendent, confirmed in an interview last week with the Anchorage Daily News that ''it was a cruise ship'' that killed the whale. Davis would not name the cruise line.
Steve Skrocki, the assistant U.S. attorney assigned to the case, met with representatives of the cruise ship company and park officials last week, following an investigation by the National Park Service, Davis said. He confirmed that a criminal investigation is under way.
Skrocki would not say which company, what the meetings were about or when the talks might be concluded.
Federal law generally does not require ships to report a collision with endangered whales, according to the National Marine Fisheries Service. But the law is different inside Glacier Bay's boundaries, Davis said. Any vessel that hits any object must report it to the park within 24 hours, he said.
Chuck Young, the park's chief ranger, has said officials believe the whale was struck within the national park boundaries. No ship reported hitting a whale around the time when the dead whale was found, Davis said.
The whale had first been sighted in Seymour Canal as an adult in 1979. Officials matched a marking on her fluke with one on a whale that was photographed and catalogued by whale biologists.
Princess Cruises said in a statement released last month and sent out again on Tuesday that its Dawn Princess ship spotted two humpbacks near the vessel after leaving Glacier Bay on July 12.
''While we have no clear evidence that our ship and a whale came into contact, we cannot exclude this possibility either,'' the statement said.
Company spokesman Tom Dow would not say on Tuesday whether Princess was participating in the talks with the U.S. attorney. Company policy requires all ships to report any interactions with whales, the statement said.
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