DVD case may have contributed to whale’s death

The 45-foot whale washed up on shore on August 21

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) – A necropsy revealed a DVD case found in the stomach of a whale that perished along St. Julien’s creek may have contributed to the animal’s death.

The Virginia Aquarium Stranding Response Team towed the whale to Craney Island to perform the necropsy, during which they discovered a large, sharp piece of rigid plastic in the whale’s stomach.

Aquarium Research Coordinator Susan Barco said, “It is possible that the whale was weak from lack of feeding due to the foreign material in its stomach. This may explain why it wandered into an unusual area like the Elizabeth River.”

The necropsy also determined the whale had two fractured vertebrae, most likely caused by impact from a vessel, Barco said.

Piece of plastic found in whale’s stomach (Photo courtesy the Virginia Aquarium).
Piece of plastic found in whale’s stomach (Photo courtesy the Virginia Aquarium).

Whale tissue samples will help pathologists provide a timeline of events leading up to the whale’s death. Barco said the pathology results can often take months to complete.

The Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center Stranding Response Team and other local agencies began monitoring the whale’s unusual activity on August 14, when the U.S. Coast Guard spotted the mammal between the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel and the Monitor Merrimac Memorial Bridge Tunnel. Over the next few days, it was spotted in numerous locations along the Elizabeth River.

The 45-foot whale washed ashore in St. Julien’s Creek in Norfolk on August 21.

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