Sperm whale washed ashore on Mali Island, Fiji

Posted on 21 January 2008
WWF is saddened by the news of the dead sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus) that washed ashore on Mali Island, and advises that precaution is taken when handling the carcass.

Reports obtained from the communities on Mali and the Fisheries officers in Labasa, indicate that at this stage of decay, it is urgent to ensure the safe and immediate disposal of the carcass. There are environmental risks associated with the dead whale, but equally important is the safety of the surrounding communities.

"Undoubtedly, the dead whale will have some potential of infectious agents transmitted from the animal to those who come into physical contact with it. We are advising that extreme caution is taken when handling the carcass. While the cause of its death is uncertain at this stage, reports from observers have indicated that the whale may have been sick or distressed. However, further analysis of tissue samples will be required in order to better answer some of the queries that we have about this individual, and consequently, sperm whale populations in Fiji." said Penina Solomona, Regional Marine Officer, WWF South Pacific.

WWF will be working with the Mali Island communities and the Fisheries office in Labasa to properly dispose off the carcass.

Editor's notes:
  • Sperm whales, which yield the symbolic tabua for Fiji, are classified as 'Vulnerable' on the IUCN Red List - which indicates that they face a high risk of extinction in the near future.
  • A 'Fiji Cetaceans Capacity Building' workshop conducted by WWF South Pacific in September (2007) concluded with several recommendations including the need to establish a "Sightings & Strandings" network to respond to such incidences as this.
  • Fiji’s EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone) is recognised to be a whale sanctuary, providing protection to migrating whales that come to this region to mate and calve.