A 40-foot sei whale that has spent the last week in Virginia’s Elizabeth River died on Thursday. According to WTKR, the stranding response team dispatched to observe the whale will be performing a necropsy tomorrow. The team was prevented from aiding the whale before it perished by federal guidelines, as the animal was still swimming under its own power and not stranded. Furthermore, experts believe that the whale was likely sick and pushing it back into the open ocean may not have helped the situation.
“It could be sick, it could be confused, just lost, it is too soon to tell why this animal is in here,” biologist Kristy Phillips told WAVY-TV.
The Coast Guard first received reports of the whale near the South Norfold Jordan Bridge and promptly sent out a warning to boaters and anglers. Although sei whales are not aggressive towards humans, the large animal can easily injure anyone reckless enough to get close to it. Interfering with a whale also carries with it a $50,000 fine.
The whale came to its final resting place near the Gilmerton Bridge. Experts were hoping that the whale would eventually leave the river, but instead it kept swimming upstream. Mark Swingle, the director of the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center, told The Virginian-Pilot that the animal swam constantly in circles.
“This is the first time it’s stopped in one place for a long time,” he said on Thursday.
You can see a video of the whale when it was still alive below: