NOAA: Whale’s cause of death undetermined

LIHUE — It could be months before officials determine what caused a 16-foot, short-finned pilot whale to die and wash ashore in Hanalei Bay last week. 

A team consisting of staff and personnel from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Department of Land and Natural Resources and Hawaii Pacific University conducted a necropsy on the whale Saturday, but the examination “did not produce results indicative of the cause of death,” according to a release. 

Tissue analysis intended to help determine the cause is underway but results will take several weeks to produce, NOAA said. A report will be released to the public when the investigation is completed. 

NOAA said the superficial, circular wounds evident on the whale’s carcass were caused by cookie-cutter shark bites — a common injury on marine mammals. 

An aerial survey was conducted the day of the stranding within a 15-nautical-mile radius, and no other whale strandings or whales in distress were detected. 

A Hawaiian cultural blessing was conducted at the stranding site and the whale carcass was buried nearby after the necropsy was completed, the federal agency said. 

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