Posted by: The ocean update | July 7, 2015

Wildlife officers try to save rare whale stranded in lagoon on Great Barrier Reef (Australia)

An Antarctic minke being tagged by marine scientists in the Great Barrier Reef. Photograph: James Cook University/AAP

An Antarctic minke being tagged by marine scientists in the Great Barrier Reef. Photograph: James Cook University/AAP

Tuesday, July 7th, 2015. The whale, believed to be an endangered Antarctic minke, has been trapped in a reef lagoon off Cairns for three weeks.

Marine experts are trying to save a whale which has been stranded in a reef lagoon off Cairns for at least three weeks.

Wildlife officers have gone to Elford reef in a bid to coax the whale, believed to be between six and eight metres long, to safety.

After studying footage of the animal, which is trapped in a small lagoon surrounded by a maze of reefs, CSIRO’s Dr Matt Curnock believes the whale could be an Antarctic minke, rarely spotted on the Great Barrier Reef.

Helicopter pilot Bronwyn Loud was taking a tourist flight over the reef last month when one of her passengers noticed the whale. Three weeks on, it was still in the same spot.

“It’s not really moving much, just ducking up and down under the water,” she told the Seven Network. “It doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere.”

Curnock says wildlife officers who went to the site on Monday tried herding the animal to safety. That did not work, and they are now trying to use the whale’s natural curiosity to lure it out into open water.

“I doubt it’s able to feed there,” he said. “It eats large schools of fish and krill and the like. If it doesn’t get out, running out of energy reserves is a real risk for it.”

He said a similar incident involving a dwarf minke in 1982 did not end well. In that case the whale remained trapped for three months and died despite efforts to save it. Its skeleton is now in a Townsville museum.

Curnock said he wanted to confirm the species of whale involved in the drama.

“It may be an Antarctic minke,” he said. “It’s pretty rare, but not unheard of, for this species to be on the Great Barrier Reef.”

“There was a confirmed sighting of an Antarctic minke back in 2001.”

He said wildlife officers would be doing their best not to stress the animal.

“We’re certainly hoping this one is going to find its way out soon,” Curnock said.

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