Five whales were found dead, while four others were euthanized after a mass stranding on a Maui beach in Hawaii on Thursday.
The community woke up early in the morning with ten melon-headed whales stranded alive on Sugar Beach in the coastal resort community of Kihei.
About a mile north, a whale calf that was believed to be from the same social group was found dead, according to David Schofield, regional marine mammal response coordinator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Four of the whales were determined by NOAA veterinarians to be in grave condition and nothing could be done to save them, according to Jeffrey Walters, NOAA’s wildlife management and conservation branch.
“The last time we saw them they seemed to be moving in a healthy manner to deeper waters. So it’s our hope that they got their bearings about them and were able to head out to sea,” Schofield said.
NOAA and University of Hawaii scientists will examine the whales to find out what caused the stranding, while officials will continue monitoring in case others return.
“We will continue to work with practitioners and other community members to the maximum extent possible, while we fulfill our mandate to conduct stranding response and post-mortem exams under the Marine Mammal Protection Act,” Walters said.
The last time whales got stranded in Hawaii was two years ago, the cause of which is still being investigated. In 2004, about 150 melon-headed whales nearly stranded at Kauai’s Hanalei Bay. One of them died.
An estimate of 400 melon-headed whales is found in the Hawaiian Islands. They are found in deep, tropical waters worldwide, and are named for the bulge on their foreheads.