A large whale carcass off Windward Oahu has been towed out to sea.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, fishermen first spotted the dead whale lodged on the reef near Moku Manu, or Bird Island, off Marine Corps Base Hawaii.
When officials got there, about three hours later, the carcass had moved about three miles into Kailua Bay and was being circled by large sharks.
David Schofield, NOAA Pacific Island region marine mammal response coordinator, said crews decided to tow the carcass for public safety reasons.
“There were at least six, probably more, 12- to 13-foot-plus-sized sharks on the whale,” he said. “If we had not towed it out of Kailua Bay, it would have likely washed up along Lanikai Beach, and the beach would have probably had to been closed for most of the weekend.”
Because the whale was towed out to sea, officials were unable to perform a necropsy on the animal.
“Because the whale was so decomposed, even if we were able to take samples, we would likely not be able to determine the cause of death,” Schofield said. “There were no external signs of entaglement, no signs of being of being hit by a ship or boat. Unfortunately, we’ll never know.”
Officials estimate the whale weighed at least 60,000 pounds.
Humpback whales visit Hawaiian waters each year from November to May, with the peak of the season from January to March.