Marine biologists are investigating the deaths of at least six whales found washed up on France’s western shores with no apparent sign of having been hit by a ship or caught in a trawler’s net.
Researchers on Monday used a mechanical digger and long knives to dissect a fin whale, the second largest species of whale after the blue whale, taking samples they believe might reveal evidence of a viral pathogen.
In an average year, between three and, at most, 10 whales are deposited dead on France’s beaches, they say. “We have what is almost an epidemic or, at any rate, an abnormal spike in deaths,” said Willy Dabin, a researcher from the Pelagis Observatory.
The most recent fin whale corpse was found on Friday near Saint-Hilaire-de-Riez. It measured nearly 16 metres and weighed an estimated 10 tonnes.
The fin whales have all died within the past six weeks. All have been malnourished and shown evidence of haemorrhaging in the cardiac and respiratory systems.