Whale injured by boat makes ‘last trip’ – 3,000 mile swim to Hawaii

A beloved humpback whale named Moon was left with a broken spine and completely unable to use her tail to propel her through the sea after being hit by a ship. But she is now on a mission of “tenacity and tragedy”, having swum more than 3,000 miles from Canada to Hawaii in what experts consider her “last voyage” before her death.

Researchers have known Moon for years. Just two years ago, they saw her pass on the traditions to her little one. But last September, when she was swimming alone near the Fin Island research station in northern British Columbia, they realized something was wrong: her spine was deformed.

From a bird’s eye view, it was clear she had been hit by a ship, the researchers said. Its normally straight spine now had a massive “s” shape running from its dorsal fin down the middle of its back to its fluke. The BC Whales organization says her ‘severe spinal injury’ left her unable to use her tail, which provides the up and down motion needed to help her swim effortlessly through the ocean .

This type of injury, according to the organization, will likely lead to his death. But that hasn’t stopped the huge mammal from trying to make the most of the time it has left.

On December 1, nearly three months after her injury was first noticed, Moon was spotted again, this time thousands of miles away.

The Pacific Whale Foundation found her swimming off Maui, Hawaii, more than 3,000 miles from British Columbia, with a “twisted body” and declining health. According to the Marine Education & Research Society, she had to use her pectoral fins to make the trip because her tail was paralyzed.

“She was probably in a lot of pain, but she migrated thousands of miles without being able to propel herself with her tail,” BC Whales said. “Her voyage left her completely emaciated and covered in whale lice, which testifies to her severely impaired condition.”

This trek will probably be Moon’s last trek.

“In her current condition, she will not survive to make the return trip,” BC Whales said. “We will never truly understand the strength it took for Moon to undertake what is sadly his last journey, but it is up to us to respect such tenacity within another species and recognize that collisions with ships lead to a devastating end.”

The group said their trip reveals the “harsh reality” of what happens when a sea animal is struck by a ship.

“This speaks to the prolonged suffering that whales can endure afterwards,” the organization said. “It also speaks to their instincts and their culture: how far whales will go to follow patterns of behavior.”

Ship strikes are a major threat to whales and other marine species. From 2010 to 2014, NOAA reported that 37 whales were injured in ship strikes along the Atlantic coast of North America and in the Gulf of Mexico, with similar estimates along the Pacific coast. . Other studies have shown a significantly higher impact, with one published in 2017 estimating that up to around 80 blue, fin and humpback whales are struck along the US West Coast each year.

“But these minimum estimates are likely low because the number of unreported fatalities and serious injuries is unknown,” the government agency said, adding that ship strike estimates for small marine mammal species are likely even higher. underestimated.

Professional diver Kayleigh Nicole Grant met Moon in Hawaii and said she was now being followed by sharks as her condition declined. Another whale now appears to escort him on his doomed journey, an indicator of the “compassion” the whales share.

“It was so hard to see a humpback whale in so much pain with my own eyes,” Grant said. “All of his suffering is due to human impact and it kills me that we are causing so much damage to nature and wildlife.”

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