Sperm whale beached off coast of Venice to be euthanized if it survives the night, FWC says

A beached whale estimated to be about 50 feet long and 50,000-70,000 pounds is stranded off the coast of Venice, according to city officials.

The adult live sperm whale was confirmed to be beached at 7 a.m. on Sunday morning, according to the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission.

The city says the whale is on a sandbar about 50 yards out from Service Club Park.

Courtesy: The City of Venice

Courtesy: The City of Venice

The FWC says a multi-agency team of Stranding Network partners, including Mote Marine Laboratory, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Clearwater Marine Aquarium, University of Florida, Sarasota Dolphin Project are responding, in collaboration with the City of Venice, Venice Police Department, and Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office.

"We know from the size and that it's likely an adult sperm whale, and it appears very thin," said Gretchen Lovewell, Stranding Investigations Program Manager at Mote Marine Laboratory.

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FWC determined the adult whale needed to be euthanized because it's severely underweight and struggling to stay alive. Efforts to do so were quickly suspended due to strong winds, shifting currents, and a trough that formed between the sandbar and shoreline. 

"If the animal is rolling or thrashing in the surf, anyone that goes near it could be seriously injured," said Denise Boyd, Assistant Research Associate of FWC's Marine Mammal Program. 

Boyd said there was also the possibility sharks could be nearby.

"We have plans to have law enforcement monitor the mammal throughout the evening and we will reconvene before sunrise," she said. 

Agencies will conduct a necropsy to determine what caused this. Then, its body will either be towed back out to sea, hauled off to a nearby landfill, or buried.     

Officials ask that people avoid the area to allow Mote staff to conduct their assessments.

"It's very rare for us to have. I've been at Mote for almost 15 years, and we've never had a sperm whale here. So, they do occur off the Gulf. But for them to be at the beach is not common," explained Lovewell.

Courtesy: Sarasota County Sheriff's Office

Courtesy: Sarasota County Sheriff's Office

FWC said the sperm whale is an endangered species. 1 to 2 are found beached along the gulf coast every year. They are usually found hundreds of miles away, in pods deep in gulf waters.

The FWC says samples will be collected to try to determine the cause of illness and to better understand the sperm whale's health, energetics, and life history. Officials said they would give the animal a sedative once they are able to approach.

"Right now we're waiting on tide and the conditions to become safe for us to work. So once conditions improve, we'll start making more of a plan," said Lovewell.

The FWC said water conditions were still too dangerous as of 4 p.m. to approach the whale by boat. According to the city, another assessment will be made at low tide, shortly after 7 p.m.

Unfortunately, it appears this will likely be a recovery effort as nature takes its course, according to officials.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

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