SEAVIEW — Whale experts are hoping for a chance to examine an approximately 22-foot dead male gray whale that has been observed drifting entangled in apparent crab pot lines in the Columbia River plume off the southern coast of the Long Beach Peninsula.
Tiffany Booth of the Seaside Aquarium, who often coordinates research into beached whales in Pacific and Clatsop counties, said she became aware of the deceased whale about a week ago after boaters noticed it at sea. The whale had not reached shore as of Monday afternoon. Booth said that if it does, the aquarium hopes to be notified so that it can conduct a necropsy to determine its cause of death. Unless that happens, it is impossible to say whether the whale died as a result of entanglement or if its body later washed into the lines.
A volunteer with South Pacific County Technical Rescue said his team encountered the whale half a mile off the Seaview beach approach while in training.
“Looked like a baby gray whale to my untrained eye, tangled in crab pot lines,” he said.
Gray whales are commonly sighted in the vicinity of the mouth of the Columbia River. Their northbound spring migration from warm calving grounds off Mexico begins in late March and continues through June. The whales spend summers feeding in the North Pacific off Alaska and British Columbia. Newborn gray whales are about 16 feet long, while adults can range upward to around 50 feet.
Becoming entangled in active and lost fishing gear is a known hazard for whales, placing them at danger for drowning, infections and starvation. Anyone who sees a whale in distress is encouraged to call the NOAA 877-SOS-WHALE hotline.
The aquarium’s number is 503-738-6211.