Carcass of young humpback whale washes up on Kauai beach

LIHUE, Hawaii (AP) — Officials are investigating the death of a young humpback whale that washed up on a Kauai beach.

Kekaha resident Kevin Rogers told the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration about the carcass after finding it during a Monday morning beach walk, The Garden Island reported.

The nearly 10-foot whale carcass was covered in wounds, Rogers said.

“It’s definitely a baby, and its body is full of lacerations,” Rogers said. “It’s missing a fin — there was maybe something nibbling on it at some point.”

Kauai County Ocean Safety officials helped remove the carcass and took it to the Pacific Missile Range Facility for a necropsy.

A veterinarian contracted by NOAA and an University of Hawaii stranding team were flown from Oahu to examine the carcass, said David Schofield, a stranding coordinator for the Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program. Officials were working to determine the cause of death.

The whale calf was likely dead in the water for some time, and the lacerations could have been caused by sharks, Schofield said.

“It’s too early to tell — we have to wait for the necropsy to be sure,” Schofield said.

The carcass could lead to clues about the fewer humpback whale sightings reported in recent years, Schofield said.

“It’s important that we send the team over and try to get as thorough a necropsy as possible because it could give us an understanding of why we are seeing less humpback whales this year,” Schofield said.