Beautiful Virgin Islands

Sunday, Nov 27, 2022

Gov’t to organise local stranding network after mass whale deaths

As the removal process begins for dozens of short-fin pilot whales found dead on Anegada recently, the Ministry for Natural Resources will be organising a local stranding network to better respond to these types of incidences.

A stranding network is a collaboration of a group of people responsible for marine mammals who get stranded on land and are not able to return to their natural habitat.

Natural Resources Minster Melvin ‘Mitch’ Turnbull said his ministry will be partnering with non-government organisations (NGOs) to form the local stranding network.

Meanwhile, approximately 50 short-fin pilot whales died while beached on Anegada at the weekend. Overall, the number whales seen in the area is estimated to 150.

The Ministry of Natural Resources said in a media release on Tuesday that the stranded mammals were scattered across remote pockets of space around the eastern end of Anegada.

The Ministry said 17 whales that were found entangled within the prop roots in the sister island’s mangrove forest were towed out at sea while the 30 to 40 whales that were beached on the sand were buried.

The ministry estimates that the removal of all the whales is expected to be completed later today.

“We are doing everything possible to get the area prepared for the enjoyment of locals and visitors so that they can resume recreational activities within the area. Moving forward, the Ministry will be organising a local stranding network, working alongside our local NGO partners for clear and concise communication which will result in quicker mobilisation of all members involved,” Turnbull stated.

Necropsy


The Ministry of Natural Resources noted that it received assistance from representatives of various NGOs in the territory to collect genetic tissue samples and morphometric data (data relating to the size and shape of the animals) from 39 whales and it will be sent out of the territory for further analysis.

Argel Horton, a Marine Biologist at the Ministry of Natural Resources, said the situation was tragic but is something from which residents can learn.

“From the genetic samples collected, we would be able to learn more about the deep-water mammals that do not often venture into shallow waters. We will determine the gender, stomach content, age and so much more. We urge the public once again to notify the Ministry of all marine mammals that pass through the area. The earlier we learn about possible stranding events, the better as we can mobilise our team and partners and act quickly which may save their lives,” Horton said.

The ministry expressed thanks to Beyond the Reef, the Association of Reef Keepers, the Anegada community, local fishermen, the BVI Rotary family, BVI Gin and Nanny Cay Chandlery and all other volunteers for the assistance they have shown, and supplies donated for handling this tragic event.

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