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Dead whale washes up at Port Mahon

Courtesy of MERR Institute
The whale at Port Mahon

A dead whale washed up near the pier at Port Mahon over the weekend, but the Marine Education Research and Rehabilitation Institute doesn’t yet know how it’s going to remove it.




Suzanne Thurman, the MERR Institute's executive director, said the whale - likely a 17-ton juvenile humpback 25 to 30 feet long, is stuck behind poles and rocks at the pier, making it difficult to budge.


“Because of the rocky sort of riprap, it wouldn’t be possible to tow the whale over the rocks,” Thurman said. “They’re quite large rocks and the whale would just break into a million pieces which would then become lodged in the rocks and would not be pleasant for those who fish at the pier.”


Thurman said if a dead whale washed up by the coast, they’d tow it out of the water, determine its cause of death and then bury it on the beach, but burial at the port would be difficult because it’s a marsh, and the water isn’t even deep enough for a vessel to access the carcass. 


“So by water right now, there’s not a solution that we know of,” Thurman said.


MERR can’t thoroughly examine the whale because it’s mostly submerged in water, but Thurman said by standing on the pier and looking down at it, it looks like it could have a broken jaw. 


And MERR wants to remove the whale before Thursday, when temperatures could hit 80 degrees. Thurman said by then, the stench of the carcass could be overpowering to anyone within several miles of the port.


According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, all humpback whales were listed as endangered species in 1970. 


NOAA then announced in September 2016 that many endangered population segments of  humpback whales have recovered enough, that they’re no longer considered endangered species. Four populations remain endangered and one is considered threatened.


This is the fourth whale to wash up in Delaware in the last year. 

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