ST. PETERSBURG — The Bryde's whale found floating in the Port of Tampa on Sunday morning was killed by a ship in the Gulf of Mexico, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
"We have determined this is a clear-cut case of a ship strike," said NOAA stranding coordinator Blair Mase. "There is evidence of both premortem blunt trauma and postmortem blunt trauma," indicating to biologists that the whale was killed by a ship, draped across its bow and carried into port.
The whale, a lactating 41.5-foot female, had severe fractures and cuts along her body, some of which could have occurred during the long tow that brought the whale to Fort De Soto Park for a necropsy.
The whale was buried at the park Monday.
An NOAA expert will investigate what type of ship struck the whale "not from an accusatory standpoint, but to gain information," Mase said. Factors like hull type and speed could allow researchers to push for safer shipping methods.
The ship's crew, Mase said, most likely felt the impact. "If you strike a live whale, you're going to know it and hear it and feel it," she said. Carrying the whale into port may not have been as easy to sense.
Drew Harwell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 445-4170.