Report Inconclusive On What Killed Orca L112

May 15, 2012

Scientists are still trying to pinpoint the cause of death for a young female orca that washed up near Long Beach, Washington in February.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released a report today with details from the whale’s necropsy.

Right now scientists still aren’t sure what caused the death of orca L112, also known as “Victoria”.

Her body showed signs of trauma, bruising and hemorrhaging but there were no broken bones.

Joe Gaydos is one of the scientists that produced the report for NOAA. He’s a veterinarian with the University of California Davis and the Sea Doc Society.

Joe Gaydos: “It could have been a host of different things that caused that blunt trauma and that’s really what we’re trying to work out right now.”

The team says possible causes of death include an underwater earthquake, a vessel strike, a run-in with another whale and explosives.

Ken Balcomb runs the Center for Whale Research on San Juan Island. He and others in the orca research community believe naval operations are to blame.

Ken Balcomb: “I can’t imagine it’ll be anything other than consistent with very extreme pressure trauma such as a bomb or sonar at very close range.”

The U.S. Navy says it was not conducting any sonar or explosives tests during the period when the whale died. The Canadian Navy was conducting tests several hundred miles north of where “Victoria” washed ashore. But NOAA modeling suggests that it’s unlikely her body would have been carried that far south given that prevailing currents were pushing North up the coast.

The team will continue examining “Victoria”’s remains. Underwater recordings from the time of her death will be made public in August.

Copyright 2012 KUOW