Whale on ship bow turns up in Tacoma

TacomA – Scientists will try to determine today what killed a whale found Friday at the Port of Tacoma.

Crews on tugboats bringing the cargo ship Ever Uranus into port early Friday spotted the whale lodged on the ship’s bow, said Brian Gorman, a Seattle-based spokesman for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s fisheries service.

A port security guard later saw the animal’s carcass floating at the southern end of the Blair Waterway, port spokeswoman Tara Mattina said.

A tugboat towed the whale to a local beach Friday afternoon, and researchers from the state Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Olympia-based Cascadia Research Collective are expected to examine the carcass today.

Officials did not want the exact location reported to keep gawkers away.

Initial indications are that the animal was either a fin or sei whale, probably a calf, Gorman said.

Both species are baleen-type whales that favor the open ocean. Baleen whales feed on small marine creatures by filtering them through the sieve-like structures in their mouths.

The whale appears to be about 35 feet long, said Jessie Huggins, marine mammal-stranding coordinator for Cascadia Research.

“It was most likely struck offshore,” said Huggins, who saw the carcass and will take part in today’s necropsy.

There is some evidence the whale might have been the victim of predators, including what appears to be a ragged hole in its throat, she said.

Orcas are known to attack other whales in such a manner, Huggins said.

Collisions between ships and whales are not infrequent off Washington’s coast, she said. At least two such collisions were reported in 2006.

The last dead whale pushed into the Port of Tacoma by a ship was a blue whale in June 1989, according to an article published last year in the Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom. That time, a fin whale was found on the bow of a ship at the port, the article states.

Late last month, a cruise ship entered the Port of Vancouver, B.C., with a dead whale lodged on its bow, according to news reports.

Adam Lynn: 253-597-8644