Dead whale found in Afono

DMWR personnel examine the dead whale found Monday in Afono. [courtesy photo]

A dead whale has been found in Afono, and may be a new species in our waters.
Alden Tagarino, a wildlife biologist for the Department of Marine and Wildlife Resources told Samoa News that the dead whale was stranded on the beach adjacent to the school in Afono, and was found on Monday, Feb. 25
Officer Maiava of the DPS Marine Patrol Division discovered the dead whale at 7 p.m and it was buried the next day at 11:30 a.m. on land owned by Vaalele Mao.
Dr. Kristi West of Hawaii Pacific University arrived in the territory Monday night to conduct a full necropsy, working hand in hand with DMWR. The whale was exhumed on Wednesday, Feb. 27 at 3 p.m. and was taken to the landfill to undergo a full necropsy that was completed at 7:45 p.m.
According to Tagarino, it was a female whale, approximately 12 feet long, and a fetus was discovered in the whale, meaning the whale was pregnant when it died.  Plastic bottle caps, wood, fruits/nuts, squid beaks, fish eyes, and a fish skull were found in the dead whale’s stomach.
Photographs of the dead mammal have been sent to the Stranding Network of the Pacific Region, of which American Samoa is a signatory, and genetic samples will be sent to the Southwest Fisheries Science Center in La Jolla, California once the appropriate paperwork, such as permits and customs forms, are completed and ready.
The samples are expected to be on their way to the mainland on next week’s Hawaiian Air flight.
Tagarino said this is possibly a new species for American Samoa, adding that identification of the mammal was up to the genus level only (Mesoplodon) but the exact species will not be confirmed until genetic samples are processed and the results are sent back, a process that can take 2-3 weeks.
DMWR has no further information yet on the possible cause of death.
 “We will hopefully have a better idea once the lab work is done on the samples taken,” Tagarino said. He thanked DMWR Staff Hanipale Hanipale and Saia Lavatai of the Enforcement Division; Ailao Tualaulelei and Ace Mauga of the Wlidlife Division; Afa Uikirifi and Fale Tuilagi of the Fisheries Division; and DMWR Director Dr Ruth Matagi-Tofiga for their assistance and support.


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