Deformed Humpback Whale Spotted off Kauai

Experts believe that they have recently spotted a badly deformed humpback whale off the idyllic Hawaiian island of Kauai. It is thought that the whale in question has scoliosis, which is the curvature of the spine.

A Humpback whale with scoliosis needs your help
A Humpback whale with scoliosis needs your help

David Schofield, who is the Marine Mammal Response Coordinator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), held a press conference about the signs of the whale which is in distress.

This whale was first spotted on Monday at 9.30 am. It was spotted by a Flight Instructor off Port Allen in Kauai. This Flight Instructor took a photograph of this white, emaciated whale which had severe spine deformities. The whale was last spotted at 1 pm that very day, travelling westwards to Waimea.

The NOAA received several calls of possible sightings following news reports. Unfortunately, all of those sightings were of healthy animals.

Schofield said that Officials are confident that the whale was not hit by a boat. They are confident that the whale suffers from scoliosis, which is a defect that this mammal either acquired during the course of its life or was simply just born with it.

In regards to questions about the whale being hit by a boat, Schofield responded that “They’re not like cartoon animals. They don’t hold the shape of the contusion. Sometimes they’ll have like a little imprint, but it’s just not too plausible to see that if the animal had been impacted there that the peduncle or the tail shaft would’ve stayed that way.”

Symptoms of a distressed whale include a pale appearance due to dying skin. There are also red patches on the skin which are actually a proliferation of cyamids which are crab-like organisms that are smaller compared to a pencil eraser. Healthy whales have a smooth body texture and are are either light grey to slate grey in colouring.

Schofield said that it is normal for both single whales or a mother and calf to swim near the shore. Whales can be seen in shallow waters that are almost 100 years close to shore. Nesting whales will also lie motionless on the surface of the water for a long period of time, and this is called ‘logging behaviour’.

During the winter, Humpback whales migrate from Alaska to Hawaii to both breed and give birth. The whale may also be observed to breathe often, although adult whales may hold their breath for up to 30 minutes which is perfectly normal.

If this distressed whale is spotted again, a reporting vessel will stay nearby until a team is deployed to monitor the whale.

Anyone with information about the whereabouts of the distressed whale is asked to call the NOAA hotline, which is 888-256-9840.

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