Scientists Seek Clues in Death of Humpback Whale

Scientists with the Allied Whale of College of the Atlantic say the whale has been detangled from ropes at least three times in 11 years

Whale researchers are investigating the death of an 11-year-old, 35-foot humpback whale that washed ashore in Bar Harbor, Maine, last week.

They suspect the female whale, named Spinnaker, died from being entangled in fishing gear. She had been disentangled three times since 2006, most recently in Provincetown, Mass. last month.

"It's really sad to see a whale, especially this young, go so soon," said Katy Bonaro, and intern with the College of the Atlantic's Allied Whale Program.

The lead researcher performing the necropsy said Spinnaker was a well-known whale in the Gulf of Maine.

"The animal was a regular and a favorite of the researchers and a favorite of the whale watch naturalists," said Dan Dendanto.

The researchers hope to find out how Spinnaker died, so they can prevent other whales from suffering similar fates. Dendanto said the whale had been freed from fishing gear last month and was "sighted dead with no gear on her at all" last week.

Scientists examined Spinnaker's mouth, throat, and stomach to see if there is any residual rope that may have caused her death.

"This is one of the best things we can do to help honor her after her death," said Bonaro, "to try and figure out what's going wrong."

Spinnaker's skeleton will be taken to the College of the Atlantic to be on display at the Museum of Natural History.

The International Whaling Commission estimates that 308,000 whales and dolphins die from entanglement in fishing gear each year.

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