Young whale dies at Ashkelon port

Fin whale gets lost at Israeli port, dies while police, divers and veterinarians stand by helplessly.

fin whale 224 (photo credit: AP [file])
fin whale 224
(photo credit: AP [file])
A young female whale died at Ashkelon Port on Sunday morning, despite efforts by experts to save her and send her back to the open sea. The calf - about one year old, 13.4 meters long and weighing in at nearly 14 tons - surprised port workers, who found the distressed whale early in the morning. The workers called the Israeli Marine Mammal Research and Assistance Center [IMMRAC] of the University of Haifa, and soon volunteers, marine biologists, divers and veterinarians arrived at the scene. "The whale seemed worn out. She was lying with half her body in the water and the other half on a sand bank," Aviad Scheinin, chairman of IMMRAC, told The Jerusalem Post. "We tried to put her back into the water and to help her swim back to the open sea, but she preferred to stay in the harbor's water. After 30 minutes, she fibrillated and died in front of our eyes, slowly sinking into the water. It was the saddest sight," he said. Scheinin identified the lost calf as a fin whale, the second-largest mammal on earth and a common species in the Western Basin of the Mediterranean, but not in the Eastern Basin where Israel is situated. "The arrival of lost whales to the area has become a regular occurrence in Israel's ports in the past four years, and mainly in Haifa Port," Scheinin said. "However, fin whales coming to this area is still rare and unusual, and that makes the situation even harder." After the dead whale was lifted from the water with a crane, the body was transferred to a pit dug to hold the huge mammal until an autopsy, scheduled for Monday morning, could reveal the cause of death. "We spent the entire day engineering the removal of the body from the water. We hope the reason for the death will be revealed tomorrow," Scheinin said.