Dead whale found pinned to Alaska cruise liner

Thu Jul 29, 2010 5:34pm EDT
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By Yereth Rosen

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Reuters) - A dead whale has been discovered pinned to the bow of a Princess Cruises luxury liner near Juneau, the third such incident for the company's Alaska fleet in a decade, officials said on Thursday.

The whale, believed to be a juvenile humpback, was found on Wednesday on the ship's so-called "bulbous bow," the section of the vessel's leading tip that goes through the water, said Julie Speegle, spokeswoman for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in Juneau.

Speegle said it was possible the whale was already dead when it became pinned to the ship's bow.

Humpback whales are protected under the U.S. Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

Officials from the U.S. Coast Guard and NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service briefly detained the ship, the Sapphire Princess, in an area south of Juneau to open an investigation and remove the whale's body.

The ship was allowed to proceed in the afternoon, and the carcass was taken to a site for further study, Speegle said.

The cruise line issued a statement on Thursday saying the company was surprised by the incident and that the vessel's crew had not noticed any impact nor seen any whales near the vessel before the dead animal was discovered.

NOAA marine mammal experts headed to the site on Thursday to gather measurements and other information before a necropsy, the animal version of an autopsy, is performed.   Continued...