Sperm whale stranded off coast of Florida in the US

Monday, December 31, 2007

Officials and biologists for several federal state and local agencies including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Mote Marine Laboratory are currently observing a 30 foot Sperm whale off Florida's west coast that may be stranded. It was first spotted by a fisherman.

For a while on Sunday, the whale, which is believed to be juvenile, was stuck on a sandbar near the city of St. Petersburg. Currently it is swimming in just nine feet of water less than half a mile off shore and officials are determining how to proceed with the situation. Its sex has not yet been determined.

"They’re assessing the situation to decide what they need to do. A sheriff’s office boat is there to keep the interested public at an appropriate, safe distance. We don’t want anybody to get hurt, and we don’t want to stress the whale any more than it is," said spokeswoman for Mote, Nadine Slimak.

It is rare for a Sperm whale to come to shore. In the past 10 years, two dead whales washed up on the western shores of Florida. In 2003 a live whale had to be put to sleep after researchers determined it was ill and came ashore to die.

Sperm whales are the most common of all the whales in the Gulf of Mexico.