The crowds had dispersed as the tide came in June 12.

The crowds had dispersed as the tide came in June 12.

Rope likely interfered with humpback’s ability to eat

Veterinary pathologist confirms starvation played role in beached whale's death in White Rock.

There is no doubt starvation played a significant role in the death of a young humpback whale that beached itself on White Rock shores last week.

Stephen Raverty, a veterinary pathologist with the Ministry of Agriculture’s Animal Health Centre, said Thursday that the animal was “quite severely emaciated,” beyond what experts typically see in a migrating creature of its kind.

“Coming from Hawaii, we would anticipate some degree of weight loss, but this was over and above the normal physiologic changes; it was actually pathologic and quite severe.”

The whale, a two- to three-year-old male, was found on White Rock’s East Beach around 5 a.m. June 12. Entangled from head to tail fluke in fishing line, it died shortly after.

The incident caught the attention of several news outlets, and as word spread, drew hundreds of onlookers to the sandbar – with many of the early arrivals planning to try and help the whale get back out to sea.

After it succumbed, the interest was rooted more in curiosity, awe and a need to pay final respects.

Raverty said he never saw the whale in its entangled state; the lines were cut away by those first on the scene. He arrived on the beach that evening to conduct the post-mortem exam before Canadian Coast Guard officials towed the carcass off-shore.

Wounds that Raverty saw were consistent with those caused by rope, he said, and it was apparent the line “would have interfered with the ability of the animal to normally use its baleen to feed.”

He said drag caused by the gear may also have caused the animal physical pain.

Testing is ongoing to determine if the whale had any pre-existing disease; results Raverty anticipates will be in by the end of next week.

Efforts are also ongoing to try and determine when the entanglement occurred, if it was the result of encountering more than one set of gear and where the gear originated; as well, to try and identify the creature through Pacific tail-fluke libraries.

Raverty said one positive of the situation was the opportunity to examine the whale so soon after its death. Often in such cases, the animal is found too far decomposed to fully assess its nutritional state at the time it actually succumbed.

Another positive is that others will also learn from the whale’s demise. Its skeleton is to be rearticulated and displayed for education purposes at the whale interpretive centre in Telegraph Cove.

Paul Cottrell, a South Surrey resident and Pacific marine mammal co-ordinator for Fisheries and Oceans Canada, had told PAN that the decomposition process will take more than a year.

Raverty said a message the public can glean from the sad tale is the “very real risk” that derelict or abandoned ropes and nets pose for such animals. On the U.S. east coast, it is actually a significant cause of death that is affecting population numbers, he said.


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum. (File photo)
Surrey mayor taking it on the chin during budget public hearing

So far, he’s cut five callers off during Monday’s virtual meeting

The entrance at Fleetwood Villa in Surrey. (Photo:
Fleetwood Villa resident tests positive for COVID-19, leading to ‘outbreak’ at facility

Fraser Health says it’s ‘critically important’ for people in the region to use COVID-19 assessment tool

A Surrey protest now in week 12 against a local resident has frayed the nerves of neighbours fed-up with the group’s presence. (Submitted photo)
Surrey neighbourhood fed-up with strange protest

Surrey Mounties say they’re monitoring the situation

Bhupinder Hundal. (submitted photo)
Surrey’s Bhupinder Hundal hired as news director of B.C. broadcaster

Grad of Princess Margaret Secondary now managing Global station

Surrey-White Rock MLA-elect Trevor Halford and Surrey South MLA-elect Stephanie Cadieux have each been given a portfolio as an Opposition critic. (Contributed photos)
BC Liberals give Halford, Cadieux critic responsibilities

Surrey South and Surrey-White Rock MLAs to help keep eye on majority NDP government

A B.C. Ambulance Service paramedic wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 moves a stretcher outside an ambulance at Royal Columbia Hospital, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, November 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. records deadliest weekend of COVID-19 pandemic with 46 deaths; more than 2,300 cases

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry provides COVID-19 update

Fossil finds at Mt. Stephen. (Photo: Sarah Fuller/Parks Canada)
Extreme hiking, time travel and science converge in the Burgess Shale

Climb high in the alpine and trace your family tree back millions of years – to our ocean ancestors

Menno Place. (Google Street View image.)
32 family members respond to Abbotsford care home’s plea for staffing help during COVID-19 outbreak

Menno Home asks for relief workers for food service, laundry and housekeeping

Kettle bells sit aligned in an indoor fitness studio. (
1 COVID-19 case at a B.C. fitness studio leads to 104 more infections, 6 school exposures

According to case data released by Fraser Health, one case of the novel coronavirus carries a big impact

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Vehicles drive past a display thanking essential workers in Burnaby, B.C. on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marissa Tiel
B.C. changing COVID-19 case reporting as virus spread continues

Manual counting takes more time, leads to errors

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Mask fundraiser helps make children’s wishes come true

From Black Press Media + BraveFace – adult, youth and kid masks support Make-A-Wish Foundation

Christy Jordan-Fenton is the co-author of the book Fatty Legs, which has been mentioned amid the controversy of an Abbotsford school assignment on residential schools.
Co-author of residential schools book condemns controversial Abbotsford class assignment

Children’s book mentioned amid controversy at W. A. Fraser Middle School

Kootenay East MLA Tom Shypitka takes over as energy and mines critic for the B.C. Liberal opposition. Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick (right) moves from health critic to assistant deputy speaker. (Hansard TV)
B.C. Liberals pick critics to take on Horgan’s NDP majority

Interim leader Shirley Bond takes seniors, long-term care

Most Read