He’s back! Whale washes ashore again
Six-year-old Ashe Fruean pokes at what was left of the backbone, tail, and fins of the 20-ft. sperm whale that washed up in the Faganeanea/Avau area last Wednesday and made its way to Laulii on Saturday morning.
Villagers were awoken to the sight — and smell — of the decomposed whale that was later removed by employees of the Department of Marine and Wildlife Resources (DMWR).
DMWR Director Dr. Ruth Matagi-Tofiga was at the scene and told Samoa News the whale was dragged five miles out to sea on Wednesday but nonetheless, “if the current is strong, the remains will be brought back to shore,” she said. “The carcass will basically be taken wherever the waves and current take it.”
Laulii residents were ready to dig a hole on the beach to bury the remains but Matagi-Tofiga insisted that DMWR workers load the carcass on to a flatbed truck and escort it to the Futiga landfill for burial.
She explained it is their duty is to dispose of any and all remains — after taking the necessary samples - which they did on Wednesday when the whale was first discovered. She said whale bones and teeth are sought after and very valuable, with people using them to make jewelry and accessories. “We can’t have people taking off with the ivory and using them to make money,” she said. “That’s why we are disposing of the remains properly.”
According to Matagi-Tofiga, passers-by reported seeing other parts of the same whale in the waters at the Tafuna Industrial Park area over the weekend. She said it is very hard for them to determine how the whale died, because when it was discovered, its body parts were not intact, meaning other sea mammals or fish might have attacked the whale and/or feasted on it.
Samples taken from the whale have been sent to an off-island lab for testing to determine if the fish was sick, and how it died.
Matagi-Tofiga said it is unusual for the sperm whale to make an appearance in local waters at this time of year, as this is the season humpback whales usually come here to give birth.
Wednesday’s stranding was the second one of its kind in the territory this year. The first one occurred in Afono this past March, involving a beaked whale.