British Columbia

Dead humpback whale discovered on Haida Gwaii beach

Researchers on Vancouver Island say a humpback whale known as Kayak was found dead on a beach on Haida Gwaii Saturday.

Researchers say the animal was an 18-year-old whale observed in B.C. waters since 2004

This humpback whale was found washed up dead on a Haida Gwaii beach on Saturday May 15, 2021. (Josina Davis/Marine Education and Research Society)

Whale researchers on Vancouver Island say a humpback known as Kayak was found dead on a beach on Haida Gwaii Saturday.

Officials with the Marine Education and Research Society (MERS) said in a Facebook post that the 14-metre-long animal was found on a beach near the Tlell River on Haida Gwaii, an archipelago of 150 islands off the North Coast of B.C. 

MERS said a society member gave the female whale its nickname due to a marking on the upper right side of its fluke that looks like a person in a kayak.

The society said it was able to identify the whale from pictures shared by locals.

Seen since 2004

It said the whale had been sighted around Northeast Vancouver Island since 2004 but also in southeastern Alaska, the Salish Sea, the Central Coast and in the waters off southwestern Vancouver Island.

The Department of Fisheries and Ocean said Sunday that officials from the department and local First Nations would collect photos and samples of the animal. The department did not say if a necropsy would be conducted.

The society said the whale was around 18 years old and had never given birth to offspring.

It said the whale's death was premature and could have been caused by trauma from a collision, an infection, or complications from a possible pregnancy.

It is not uncommon for humpback whales to wash up dead on beaches along B.C.'s coast.

A report from the society in 2019 said the humpback whale population off northeastern Vancouver Island had been increasing, most likely due to an abundance in prey in B.C. waters.