Beloved humpback whale struck by boat left with broken spine making her 3000 mile ‘last journey’ to Hawaii

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The beloved humpback whale, Moon, followed by scientists and whale watchers for years was recently struck by a shipping vessel leaving her with a broken spine; she is believed to be making her “last journey” from Canada to Hawaii before she dies. The boating accident left Moon unable to use her tail to propel herself through the sea, but her “tenacity & tragedy” keeps her moving towards her final destination.

According to the non profit organization, BCWhales, researchers have been observing her for years. Just two years ago, they saw her passing on traditions to her calf, but a sighting of Moon in September was worrisome.

On September 7, a lone Humpback Whale travelled past the Fin Island Research Station, operated by BC Whales, WWF-Canada and the Gitga’at Oceans and Lands Department. As our drone hovered overhead we immediately recognized that this whale had been struck by a vessel due to the unnatural ‘S’ bend in the spine from the dorsal fin to her fluke.

Her tragic story fully came to light months later due to the collaborative efforts of the Canadian Pacific Humpback Whale Collaboration (CPHC) including the Marine Education & Research Society in British Columbia, the Pacific Whale Foundation (PWF), and the Happywhale database.

On December 1 the PWF documented a whale whose spine was severely deformed off the coast of Maui. When the images were shared with us, we knew immediately that this was the same whale – now over 3,000 miles away. It was confirmed soon afterward, it was Moon.

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Tragically, this kind of injury is likely to result in her death, but her will to reach Hawaii continues to drive her back home. The Pacific Whale Foundation spotted her swimming off the coast of Maui – more than 3,000 miles away from British Columbia with a “twisted body” and in declining health. Moon had used her pectoral fins to make the journey despite her tail being paralyzed.

She was likely in considerable pain yet she migrated thousands of miles without being able to propel herself with her tail. Her journey left her completely emaciated and covered in whale lice as testament to her severely depreciated condition.

In her current condition she will not survive to make the return journey. We will never truly understand the strength it took for Moon to take on what is regrettably her last journey, but it is on us to respect such tenacity within another species and recognize that vessel strikes lead to a devastating end.

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An observer has reported seeing Moon being escorted through her heartbreaking journey by another whale, indicating the compassion these animals have towards each other. What makes all of this even more tragic is that Moon’s suffering was caused totally by man.

Vessel hits are a major threat to whales and other sea life.

You will be missed Moon.

We must all make every effort to ensure the safety of whales. Vessels of all sizes can be a threat: stay alert, slow down and wait. To reduce vessel strikes we encourage all boaters to be aware of their local laws and best practices. For Canadian mariners, we urge you to familiarize yourself with the information available at www.seeablowgoslow.org and to report any witnessed incidences of concern surrounding ship strikes or entanglement to the DFO Incident Reporting Line at 1-800-465-4336, [email protected], or on VHF Channel 16

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2 COMMENTS

  1. Beyond heartbreaking…… if only the cargo ships paid attention to the fact that the whales are in the water too (& have every right to be there)……..

    Complete lack of attention by humans created this horrible situation (& we can’t afford to lose our whales)…….

    All we can do is give the cargo ships operational guidelines for sharing the same space with whales……

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