The mammal curator and collection staff from the University of Alaska Museum of the North in Fairbanks will collect humpback whale remains at the Anchorage Coastal Wildlife Refuge this week. The 42-foot adult humpback whale washed ashore early last July.
“We want the public to understand this collection is authorized under the Marine Mammal Protection Act,” said Greg Balogh, deputy assistant regional administrator for NOAA Fisheries Alaska Region’s Protected Resources Division. “UAM has a stranding agreement with NOAA Fisheries, and a separate permit for collection and retention of marine mammal parts.”
The humpback whale was originally found dead in Turnagain Arm near Hope in June, where scientists collected samples during a necropsy. After washing ashore along the Anchorage Coastal Wildlife Refuge, thousands of interested people visited this whale carcass up close.
It appears some parts of this whale were collected by unauthorized individuals, including the baleen and rib bones. NOAA wants to remind the public that collection of endangered and threatened marine mammal parts, including humpback whales, is against federal law. While some humpback populations in Alaska have recovered from their endangered status, it remains illegal to collect humpback parts without a permit to do so.
UAM’s collection of this humpback whale will be accomplished in two phases. During Phase 1, which will be completed this week, a team will gather everything except for the skull. During Phase 2, the heavy skull will be slung via a helicopter onto a flatbed truck for transportation to UAM. Until the collection is complete, NOAA Fisheries continues to urge members of the public to keep a safe distance from the whale carcass, as it may still attract bears.
Anyone observing an entangled or stranded marine mammal should immediately call the Alaska Marine Mammal Stranding Network Hotline at 877-925-7773, or radio the US Coast Guard on VHF channel 16.