Stranded whale rescued; DOAG monitoring beaches

According to Brent Tibbatts, the agency's fisheries biologist, the animal swam strongly back into the ocean.
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The Guam Department of Agriculture is monitoring the island’s northern beaches to see whether a whale that beached itself at Ritidian will strand again on Guam’s shores.

Yesterday afternoon, the Guam Department of Agriculture received a report of a false killer whale found stranded at Ritidian.

Guam National Wildlife Refuge employees eventually pushed the whale into the water and according to Brent Tibbatts, the agency’s fisheries biologist, the animal swam strongly back into the ocean.

Tibbatts then contacted whale specialists in Hawaii.

“This species has stranded in Hawaii and gotten back out into the water and it took about a week for it to come back in. So for the next week, we’ll be checking beaches every day to see if anything turns up,” Tibbatts said.

He suspects that the whale may have been a part of a pod that a boat captain sent him footage of swimming in Guam waters two days ago. He adds that it is not common for this species to strand and says that factors such as the animal being sick, disoriented because of human activity, or frightened can cause a whale to beach itself.

“I think this is the third or fourth one that I’ve dealt with in the last 15 years. But it isn’t uncommon for Guam to have strandings. We have about one to two a year on average. It’s uncommon to have it this early in the year. But this is the time of year when we have a lot of whales migrating … generally, December through March,” Tibbatts said.

Although there have been some cases — such as in Hawaii and California — where military sonar has affected marine mammals, Tibbatts says that this species is not known to commonly strand because of it and cannot make a determination without examining the whale.

He adds that two weeks ago, a deceased false killer whale was stranded at a beach in Rota and says that it is uncommon for whales to beach themselves so close in a short amount of time.