In 2009 an unfortunate humpback whale strayed into Hong Kong waters in the east Lamma Channel. Below is a youtube clip of this momentous occassion as well as some pictures from an AFCD publication (not linked here, as its in Chinese).
Humpback whale sighted at Lei Yue Mun
Thursday, March 26, 2009
The humpback whale has been sighted at Lei Yue Mun by the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) and experts today (March 26).
As Lei Yue Mun is a principal fairway, the Marine Department has reminded vessels to exercise caution when navigating.
An AFCD spokesman appealed to the public to refrain from sailing out to disturb the whale.
“The whale appears normal. Experts believe that it is still capable of swimming to the open sea and finding its way back to its migration route. Minimising human disturbance will enhance its chances of heading home,” the spokesman said.
The spokesman said that the AFCD will continue to monitor the whale’s condition with the experts and relevant departments.
All cetacean species are protected under the Wild Animals Protection Ordinance (Cap 170). Irresponsible behaviour of whale watchers may constitute an act of wilful disturbance of protected wild animals, which is liable to a maximum penalty of $100,000 and imprisonment for one year.
Although this incident happened not in Hong Kong but in Jiangsu north of Shanghai, in January of 2003 Hong Kong also had a sperm whale stranding. Sperm whales are large animals that roam large distances, so this stranding is relevant to Hong Kong marine life, too.
Four sperm whales that were stranded ashore on the 16th of March 2012 at Xintan Salt Field in the coastal city of Yancheng in Jiangsu province. The whales, including a female, were still struggling when they were spotted, residents said. Reports about the size of the whales varied widely, but the pictures speak for themselves:
After more than 24 hours of rescue attempts the four whales died. Five rescue plans were put forward, including using helicopters and large vessels to pull the whales back out to sea, digging water channels to re-float them and waiting for a huge rising tide. “But because of the size and physical condition of the whales, all plans failed,” said Xu Xinrong, an animal researcher from Nanjing Normal University who specializes in cetacean mammals. “Small-sized whales sometimes can be rescued when they are stranded on the beach, but mass strandings of big whales is fatal,” Xu said. It was China’s first mass beaching of whales since 1985, when six whales died in the Fujian province. New footage of the incident is available here.
It was later discovered that pieces of flesh had been cut from at least one of the whales’ bodies for food. On March 18, some pieces of the sperm whales’ flesh were found cut away for food, according to a report by China Radio International. The cutting was likely done at night and about 100 kilograms of flesh was removed. ChinaSmack has an article on the incident (please be aware, the article has some swear words) with translations of Chinese internet users discussions on the incident which show a great deal of respect for whales and their conservation. Here are some of the images of the mutilations from the ChinaSMACK website:
Sperm whales, though distributed in nearly all of the earth’s oceans, prefer deep waters and can dive to a depth of 2,200 meters, said Xu. Local authorities said that disposing of the whale carcasses was now a problem. “Generally there are three ways to dispose of a whale carcass: make a specimen of it, bury it on the beach or let the tides take it back into the ocean,” Xu said. In the end they buried the whales in deep pits on the beach.
Sperm whales have stranded in the region before. In January 2004 a sperm whale that stranded in Taiwan made headlines because while being transported on a trailer through a town, it exploded due to the build up of gas from decomposition, spraying surrounding pedestrians and buildings with offal and blood.