A humpback whale spotted in Mexico with a broken spine is unlikely to survive

Humpback whale spotted in Mexico. Photo by Alexander Schmidt

Baja California Sur coast, in Mexicoare the scene of the saddest cetacean sightings possible: a humpback with a broken backalmost certainly after collision with ship. Drone footage of a floating whale with a badly deformed spine almost at the height of its tail has been captured by drone and sadly tells us that this injury is most likely it is destined to be fatal.

The sad meeting took place in December 2023 and was an underwater photographer and video maker Alexander SchmidtOf Apex Ocean Diversto share pictures of a humpback whale swimming off the coast Cabo San Lucas, a beach town located on the southern tip of Mexico’s Baja California peninsula. Schmidt then shared the images with Pacific Whale Foundationa non-profit organization based in Hawaii that studies and protects cetaceans.

At first, scientists analyzing the images thought it might be a whale spotted in Mexico Moonanother humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae), which swam even 4800 kilometers from Canada to Hawaii with an almost identical lesion. However, a more in-depth photo comparison was made Stephanie Stackbiologist from Pacific Whale Foundationhe later confirmed that he did two different individuals.

“Like Moon, I’m afraid it’s probably going to be a fatal injury,” Stack said. “Whales are extremely resilient creatures, but serious injuries like this can significantly reduce their chances of survival in the wild”. A literally broken “back” would actually cause several swimming difficulties, affecting the humpback whales’ ability to migrate, feed or even just surface. to breathe and escape from predators.

Humpback whales live on an extremely low energy budget and can have injuries that affect their ability to move normallycatastrophic consequences – added the biologist – In addition to physical problems, a broken back can also cause enormous stress and pain». However, the exact origin of this lesion remains unknown collisions with ships unfortunately, they are one of the main causes of death for whales and other cetaceans.

According to some studies done by a non-profit organization Friend of the seait is estimated that every year there are thousands of whales killed as a result of these collisions. In March 2023 whale (Balaenoptera physalus) 17 meters long was spotted struggling to swim off the coast of Spain due to her severely deformed spine. At the time it was thought to be a congenital deformity, but experts now believe it was there too collision with ship.

baby humpback whale |  I code
Humpback whale with calf

Collisions with ships represent serious problem also along the west coast of the United States, as several rare and endangered species frequent these waters. It is for this very reason National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) introduced stricter regulations to maintain speed prohibit ships over 20 meters in length from exceeding 18.5 km/h during certain times of the year.

However, a recently published study on Frontiers in Marine Science suggests that you reduce your speed it may not be enough: Respecting the limits would reduce whale deaths only from 25-30%. “We know that ship collisions are one of the most significant and widespread threats facing whales today,” concluded Stephanie Stack – Cases like these are tragic, but we hope they can be used to raise awareness and prevent future deaths».

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