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Don’t Push Beached Whales Back To Sea, Expert Says

August 9, 1986

SUGARLOAF SHORES, Fla. (AP) _ Whales that beached themselves near this resort may have been pushed back to sea after beaching last month, and an expert says sending the suffering mammals back into the ocean is misguided.

″It’s the worst thing anybody could do,″ said Edward Asper, vice president and general curator of Sea World of Florida. ″It’s an ostrich attitude.″

Natural markings identified the pilot whales that stranded themselves Friday in the Florida Keys as part of a pod of 40 pilot whales pushed back to sea in July after a mass stranding off Marco Island.

Asper said photographs can confirm that.

″If it’s part of the other group, than it’s what we’ve been watching for,″ he said.

He said misguided rescuers who push whales back to sea only break up the pod, further disorienting the already suffering beasts. Many just die at sea or wander about, unable to eat.

Friday’s beaching was the fourth in three months. Since the first stranding in June, which involved false killer whales, the state marine fisheries commission has ordered the animals corraled and held for scientists to arrive, Asper said. But many citizens and some agencies are not aware of the regulation, he said.

Florida Marine Patrol officials said that 17 whales died Friday, but Asper said his team of experts could confirm only nine dead.

Seven pilot whales that survived Friday’s beaching were scheduled to arrive at Sea World in Orlando around noon today after a truckride from the Florida Keys.

When darkness fell, four live whales were lost in the shark-infested waters, Asper said. The heavy concentration of sharks might prevent recovery of the dead whales for necropsies, he said.

The seven remaining whales, judged to be adults, were expected to survive.

″They are on the weak side,″ he said. ″They look underweight.″

In Orlando, the seven will join the single false killer whale from a pod of 27 that swam ashore on Fort Myers Beach in early June and then three days later in the Florida Keys.

Asper said it was not yet known why the whales stranded themselves.

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