PWF crew recovers whale placenta

Divers work to collect a suspected humpback placenta Friday. -- Pacific Whale Foundation photo

A crew aboard the Pacific Whale Foundation’s Ocean Explorer vessel recovered a humpback whale placenta in waters off of Maui on Friday, the foundation reported.

The crew and guests on an ecotour were watching a pod of whales 4 to 5 miles from Maalaea, it said. A Redline Rafting vessel in the vicinity was the first to spot the material floating, and Redline Capt. Tim Barker alerted foundation Capt. Aaron Bement.

Bement and crew members suspected the material was a placenta and collected what they could to allow foundation researchers to get samples, officials said. The team confirmed with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that such material could be collected for research.

The material included what was likely an umbilical cord. The recovered material was put in plastic and frozen to preserve the sample for DNA sequencing.

Genetic testing will confirm if the material is a humpback placenta.