By Dawn Krebs
MARTIN COUNTY -- On the afternoon of Sunday, March 4, two whales were discovered to have beached themselves on Jensen Beach.
The beaching was responded to by staff from the Marine Mammal Research and Conservation Program of the Florida Atlantic University Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute as well as officials from the Florida fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the Busch Wildlife Sanctuary and Jensen Beach State Park.
The whales were identified as a pygmy sperm whale mother and her calf. They were examined and found to be in very poor condition.
"There was a malnourishment issue with the mother," said Carin Smith, the media advisor for FAU HBOI. "We don't know at this point if that was the issue, or just one of many issues the whales had."
Following a veterinary examination and after consulting with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries, the decision was made to humanely euthanize both whales.
"This species are typically diagnosed with a cardiac disease called cardiomyopathy," she said. "They seldom recover for stressful stranding events."
A full necropsy will be conducted at the HBOI marine mammal pathology laboratory to examine the whales' condition and collect data.
"The necropsy began this week," she said. "It will take a few months to receive the results."
Ms. Smith stated that there is no way to predict when whales or other marine life might beach themselves.
"From what the experts say, it's due to health issues," she said. "There's not necessarily a certain time of year."
But whenever it happens, the institute is ready to help, complete with an ambulance created to help with large marine-life emergencies. The vehicle is one of only four in the country, and is used here on the Treasure Coast whenever needed.
To report sick, beached or injured marine animals, call (888) 404-2230.