Dead whale found pinned to Alaska cruise ship

Fri Jul 30, 2010 2:55am EDT
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By Yereth Rosen

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

The whale, believed to be an adult female humpback measuring 43 feet in length, was found 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 in Juneau.

The whale is believed to have become attached to the bow overnight before being discovered Wednesday morning.

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.

About a dozen biologists and marine-mammal experts were examining the whale carcass on Thursday, NOAA said. Experts will conduct a necropsy on Friday to try to determine the cause of death, NOAA said.

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

It was unclear on Thursday whether any legal action might be taken against the cruise line, owned by Carnival Corp. & Plc.

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

<p>A dead whale, believed to be a juvenile humpback, is pictured pinned to the bow of a Princess Cruises liner near Juneau, in this National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration photograph taken on July 28, 2010 and released on July 29. REUTERS/NOAA/Handout</p>