Ceremony held for rare fin whale found dead on B.C.’s Sunshine Coast

Scientists are investigating the discovery of a young fin whale — one of the world’s largest mammals — found dead on a beach on B.C.’s Sunshine Coast.

Paul Cottrell with Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s Marine Mammal Response Team says finding the carcass of a northern Pacific fin whale on the B.C. coast is very rare, so collecting information about it is a high priority for researchers.

“They’re a threatened species here in B.C., so [this is] very important,” he said.

Scientists and researchers were joined by members of the shishálh (Sechelt) First Nation to examine the whale.

A ceremony was held to recognize the cultural important of the animal before samples were collected.

“It was a very emotional day,” Cottrell said. “Just seeing a majestic animal like that, huge size, was tough on folks.”

The whale was discovered late last week near Pender Harbour, roughly 100 kilometers northwest of Vancouver.

Whale as long as a bus

Cottrell says the whale was a male, approximately two years old and more than twelve meters — or 42 feet — long, roughly the length of a standard bus.

He said early evidence indicates it may have died to blunt force trauma, likely being hit by a marine vessel.

Fin whales are the second largest mammals on earth, exceeded only by blue whales.

They can grow up to 27 meters long, weighing almost 80 tonnes.

They can also live for up to 100 years, which makes the death of a young one particularly troubling.

Martin Haulena, head veterinarian at the Ocean Wise Marine Mammal Centre, says it is a concern because the death of a rare animal affects the whole population.

The Species at Risk Act lists fin whales in Pacific Canadian waters as threatened, with about 500 of them remaining.

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