Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Plastic Bags, Line Found in Beached Whale's Stomach; Respiratory Virus Also Discovered during Beaked Whale's Necropsy

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Plastic Bags, Line Found in Beached Whale's Stomach; Respiratory Virus Also Discovered during Beaked Whale's Necropsy

Article excerpt

Byline: Kimeko McCoy

Multiple plastic bags and braided line were discovered in the stomach of a beached whale just north of Fort Matanzas Beach access.

Matthew Denny, field coordinator at the Georgia Aquarium Conservation Field Station, said he and his team responded to the report and arrived this week to find a live stranded juvenile male Cuvier's beaked whale.

After analyzing the situation and consulting with the station's contracted veterinarian, it was decided that it was in the animal's best interest to humanely euthanize it.

When a dolphin or whale turns up, it's usually no mistake, Denny said.

"They're not lost. They're not there on accident. They're usually sick or they're old or they're compromised and they're suffering."

To take things a step further and find the silver lining in the situation, the crew took it as a chance to learn and understand as much as possible and conducted a post-mortem exam, or necropsy.

During the necropsy performed Tuesday night, the debris was discovered in the animal's stomach.

In addition to debris floating around in the water, a virus was discovered.

The virus, morbillivirus, is similar to human measles and has been blamed for the rising number of deaths in local marine life.

"In the past 14 months, we've had over 14,000 dolphins strand and of the animals tested, about 96 percent of them were positive for this morbillivirus," Denny said.

The very contagious virus seems to be exclusively confined to dolphins, he added. It hasn't been proved that other species are being affected by the virus but it's something that's being tested.

Between that and the ocean debris, it was critical for the station to use the whale in understanding some of the issues facing marine life.

Denny said getting that information allows for him and his team to be more effectively equipped to protect and serve these animals in the future.

"We can identify the threats that they have to face, and the implications of our actions with regards to pollution and debris and toxins and contaminants finding their way into the water," he said. …

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