Ceremony held for fin whale found dead on British Columbia’s Sunshine Coast

Scientists are investigating the discovery of a young fin whale — one of the world’s largest mammals — found dead on a beach on British Columbia’s Sunshine Coast.

Paul Cottrell of Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s Marine Mammal Response Team says it’s very rare to find the carcass of a North Pacific fin whale on the British Columbia coast. Collecting information on this subject is therefore a priority for researchers.

“They’re an endangered species here in British Columbia, so [this is] very important,” he said.

Scientists and researchers were joined by members of the shishálh First Nation (Sechelt) to examine the whale.

A ceremony was held to recognize the animal’s cultural significance before samples were taken.

“It was a very emotional day,” Cottrell said. “Just seeing a majestic animal like that, huge in size, was difficult for people.”

The whale was discovered late last week near Pender Harbour, about 100 kilometers northwest of Vancouver.

Whale as long as a bus

Cottrell says the whale was a male, about two years old and over twelve meters – or 42 feet – long, roughly the length of a regular bus.

He said early evidence indicates he may have died of blunt force trauma, likely hit by a marine vessel.

Fin whales are the second largest mammals on earth, surpassed only by blue whales.

They can be up to 27 meters long and weigh nearly 80 tons.

They can also live to be 100 years old, which makes the death of a youngster particularly troubling.

Martin Haulena, chief veterinarian at the Ocean Wise Marine Mammal Center, says it’s concerning because the death of a rare animal affects the entire population.

The Species at Risk Act lists fin whales in Pacific Canadian waters as threatened, with about 500 of them remaining.