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Dead whale removed from Port Mahon

It took the strength and wits of two boats and 10 fisheries employees, but the whale carcass that was stuck behind rocks at Port Mahon was towed to a remote location Tuesday. 




After letting the carcass sit at Port Mahon for nearly two weeks, Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control officials tied a tow strap to the whale’s tail at low tide. By high tide, they brought two boats in. They hooked a rope up to a winch to pull the carcass off the rocks and hauled it into the bay. 


“It was gonna smell all summer,” said Rob Hossler, a wildlife administrator with the Division of Fish & Wildlife.


The whale, which the Marine Education Research and Rehabilitation Institute estimated to be 25 to 30 feet long and 1,500 pounds per foot (weighing more than 17 tons total), had been decomposing at the port since the end of April. Hossler said officials worried about the smell that would linger at the port if they didn’t remove the whale and what would happen if they pulled on the whale too hard and the carcass came apart in the rocks.  


“It wasn’t in the best shape when it came ashore, it had obviously been out at sea for a while,” Hossler said. “We weren’t sure, when we started pulling on it, what would happen, but it was obviously enough intact and buoyant enough that it came right out pretty easily.”


The whale is now in an “isolated wildlife area.” Hossler said he wouldn’t provide more detail on the whale’s location because he wants the carcass to decompose without human interference. 


Bad weather and wind early last week delayed efforts to study and remove the whale, but Suzanne Thurman, the executive director of the MERR Institute, confirmed late last week it was a humpback whale. 


“It [had] one flipper remaining that has the solid of edge of a humpback whale,” Thurman said.


It also had lumpy growths on its rostrum, a sure sign of the species, she said.


The whale is Delaware's fourth humpback whale death in over a year and the 42nd humpback whale death from January 2016 to the present from Maine to North Carolina.


It was confirmed a humpback whale just hours after the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced a need to investigate the reason behind 41 humpback whale deaths in the region.

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