Posted by: The ocean update | August 13, 2015

Monterey’s ‘Minnie the Minke’ whale was not a baby, may have suffered poisoning (California, USA)

A whale surfaces beside a sailboat in the Monterey Harbor as officials and others try to direct it out by pounding on the side of boats and making noise on Tuesday night. (David Royal - Monterey Herald)

A whale surfaces beside a sailboat in the Monterey Harbor as officials and others try to direct it out by pounding on the side of boats and making noise on Tuesday night. (David Royal – Monterey Herald)

August 13th, 2015 (Ana Ceballos). Monterey – The minke whale that swam into the Monterey Harbor on Tuesday and got itself stuck underneath a dock was probably not a baby as first reported and may have suffered from domoic acid poisoning.

“It was disoriented, and when they have domoic acid poisoning, they act like that,” said Kate Spencer, a captain and naturalist with Fast Raft Ocean Safaris.

Spencer witnessed the rescue and said the whale, which might have been several years old, was repeatedly turning from side to side, and appeared to be disoriented throughout the three-hour rescue.

“It is possible it suffered from poisoning, but only chemical tests could decipher that,” she said.

Domoic acid poisoning has been a concern in recent months. So far this year, the marine toxin has affected numerous California sea lions, sea otter and birds. It can cause sickness, disorientation, brain damage and even death.

Another possible reason the whale swam to the harbor — an occurrence authorities called unprecedented — was because it was searching for food.

The minke whale, dubbed “Minnie the Minke” by city officials, was surrounded by bait fish while trapped in a small area by a few boats.

“Food is always the primary motivation for any whale in the summer,” Spencer said.

She added anchovies, which can have high-levels of domoic acid, are abundant at the harbor.

After the news broke, whale enthusiasts in the community chimed in and argued the whale was too big to be a baby whale as initially reported by The Herald. Rescuers estimated the whale was about 35 feet long. Spencer said a baby minke whale would be about one-third of that size.

“An adult whale would be about 30 feet long,” she said.

Spencer said minke whales are common in Monterey Bay, adding they are unobstrusive and usually stay out of sight. The main difference between a minke and a humpback whale is that humpbacks have bumps and knobs throughout their heads, and minkes have sharp, yet smooth, faces.

The charcoal-colored whale was injured while it was trapped at the harbor. It hit its face numerous times as it tried to swim away.

“It did a lot of damage to its jaw,” Spencer said.

The whale is expected to survive. (Ed Sibylline : the disorientation is one of the last step in the acid domoic intoxication, before death. Without any palliative treatment (if domoic acid has been bio-accumulated in this whale), this animal has no chance to survive. At the beginning of the food chain, a quick elimination from organisms can occur but California is facing an unprecedented red algae bloom ; it means the causal link is persistent).

More info : The green monster ‘blob’ taking over California’s oceans : Largest algae bloom ever seen is turning seafood toxic (link)

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