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Whale injured by boat strike makes trip from B.C. to Hawaii, but won't survive, group says

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An injured humpback whale spotted in B.C. three months ago survived her more than 4,000-kilometre journey to Hawaii, but is unlikely to return to the Pacific Northwest, experts say.

Whale researchers in B.C. and Hawaii have pieced together the story of Moon, a humpback whale spotted travelling alone in Gitga'at First Nation territory on Sept. 7.

The cetacean had suffered a "severe spinal injury" from a vessel strike and could not lift her tail to reveal the fluke pattern researchers use to identify humpbacks.

"The entire back of the whale – from dorsal fin to fluke – was curved into an unnatural ‘S’ shape, rendering the tail stock almost completely immobile," wrote Janie Wray of the North Coast Cetacean Society in an update for supporters and media on Wednesday.

"We surmised that such an abnormal contortion could be the result of severe blunt-force trauma from being hit by a large boat."

On Dec. 1, the Pacific Whale Foundation in Hawaii documented a humpback with a severely deformed spine. The group was able to identify the animal as Moon.

"We have known Moon for many years, often seen in the late fall around the feeding grounds of northern B.C.," Wray wrote. "We were thrilled to see her with a calf in 2020, passing on this tradition of migration between feeding and breeding grounds. In her current condition, she will not survive to make the return journey."

The North Coast Cetacean Society notes that "there are a number of resources available to educate mariners" on how to avoid collisions with whales.

"For Canadian mariners, we urge you to familiarize yourself with the information available at www.seeablowgoslow.org and to report any witnessed incidences of concern surrounding ship strikes or entanglement to the DFO Incident Reporting Line at 1-800-465-4336, DFO.ORR-ONS.MPO@dfo-mpo.gc.ca, or on VHF Channel 16," Wray wrote.

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