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A diver works to remove the carcass of a whale impaled on the bow of a cruise ship that pulled into Vancouver on Saturday morning. ((CBC))

A cruise ship pulled into the Port of Vancouver on Saturday morning with a dead fin whale impaled on its bow.

Jeff MacDonald, who was at Canada Place watching the ship come in, said seeing the impaled mammal "was a shock. You don't expect to see something like that and, you know, there's a lot of people staring at it — it's a very sad thing to see — and you kind of wonder how it would happen in the first place.

"It wasn't something you wanted to see on a nice Saturday morning in Vancouver."

Martha Weber, visiting from Florida, said she was scheduled to board the ship Saturday afternoon.

She said the sight was "very sad."

"I'm a conservationist so that makes me pretty upset and sad. I came here to see them alive in the wild, and this is not what I wanted to see."

Christianne Wilhelmson, the managing director of the marine conservation group Georgia Strait Alliance, said incidents like this are all too common.

"It's kind of a tragic example of what happens when ships meet whales … There's more and more tanker traffic, there's more and more cruise ship traffic and what you have is an animal that's trying to make its way through all this."

Wilhelmson said that traffic generates a lot of noise underwater, which confuses the whales.

"They can't talk to each other, they can't hear their environment. We're going to have more incidents like this," she said.

"It's very possible that what happened here is the animal just had no idea the ship was there and this tragedy happened because of that."

Witnesses said the Princess Cruise Lines' Sapphire Princess pulled into port to allow passengers to disembark.

In a statement released on Saturday, the company said it was "shocked and saddened" by the discovery, and regretted the circumstances that led to the whale's death.

It emphasized the strict policy the company has in place to avoid whales and marine life, and added it was not known how or when the whale became impaled.