Rare find: Marine biologists work to figure out why whale came near shore, died in Keys

TAVERNIER, Fla. – South Florida marine biologists are trying to get to the bottom of a rare find and mysterious death of a marine mammal off the Florida Keys.

They’re trying to figure out why a distressed Gervais’ beaked whale came so close to shore and later died.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission brought the whale in to Tavernier Creek Marina after a boater spotted the cetacean struggling in the water off Harry Harris Park.

“I know that it’s odd. I know that it’s not supposed to be here, that it’s not normal,” Juan Ravelo, who saw the whale being brought in, said.

Art Cooper, with Dolphins Plus Marine Mammal Responders, a local organization, said in “over 30 years, I’ve personally only seen three” of that particular species in the Keys.

Cooper was brought in, along with his team, to examine the unique animal.

“They live in the open ocean. We don’t know a whole lot about them,” he said. “The animal was struggling in shallow water and it is a deep water pelagic species.”

Crews conducted a necropsy on the animal to look for toxins or plastics, ingestion, parasites, diseases, or head or ear trauma.

“We’re in a changing world, where we’re seeing lots of different things change in the marine environment,” Cooper said. “And any time you have a offshore animal that you rarely see show up alive and as a freshly dead specimen, to be able to study, we would be remiss if we didn’t opportunistically take advantage of that.”

Cooper and researchers plan to conduct a CT scan on the whale.

About the Author:

Andrew Perez is a South Florida native who joined the Local 10 News team in May 2014.