Beached whale dies on B.C. shore

Hundreds of people flocked White Rock Beach in Vancouver to see a humpback whale that had beached...

Hundreds of people flocked White Rock Beach in Vancouver to see a humpback whale that had beached itself. The whale unfortunately died on June 12, 2012. (RICHARD ZUSSMAN/QMI Agency)

QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:18 PM ET

VANCOUVER — Hundreds of people gathered on a beach south of Vancouver Tuesday morning to try to help a whale that washed up on shore, but no buckets of water could help the humpback.

The young grey humpback, the length of about 2 1/2 cars, died on the beach in White Rock, a community about 45 km southeast of Vancouver, not long after it was first spotted.

Mario Pavkovich was out walking his dog with his mother around 5 a.m. local time when he spotted "a big black spot" in the distance.

"I said, 'That's a whale,' and my mom said, 'No, it's probably a sailboat that crashed.' So we came running down here and I took one big breath and I just turned around and went up to the hotel to phone the police."

About 10 minutes later, Pavkovich returned with the RCMP, who cut the fishing gear that was caught on the whale's mouth and back fin. The animal seemed to be alive and would breathe every five to 10 minutes, Pavkovich said.

About an hour and a half later, the whale died, he said.

Hundreds of people, including school-age children and their parents, gathered on the beach with buckets and shovels to try to help keep the whale alive.

Karina Lohr brought her children Katelyn, 11, and Nikaya, 9, to what they thought was a rescue mission.

"We actually came to try to help to save it, with buckets and shovels in our car from Delta — I don't want to tell you how fast we drove," she said.

Once they arrived and realized the whale was dead, one of her children didn't want to see it.

"I said you're going to come and see it because it's important," Lohr said. "It's of course sad, it's sad because it's a loss, but it's also a beautiful experience to see people gathered together and have a common energy."

Martin Haulena, staff veterinarian at the Vancouver Aquarium, said the whale, which was probably younger than three years old, was in very bad shape. It was very thin and had old scars. The fishing gear and rope that was wrapped around it looked at first glance as though it had been there for weeks or even months, he said.

"It does make sense that the gear would have interfered with the animal's ability to forage and the animal just couldn't find enough food to eat eventually," Haulena said.

Paul Cottrell, marine mammal co-ordinator with Fisheries and Oceans Canada, said crews will study the gear that was removed from the whale.

Officials are working on a plan to dispose of the carcass.

— with files from Richard Zussman and Jill Bennett


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