Oct 6, 2022 - News

Massive whale decomposing in Biscayne Bay sparks curiosity

A whale skeleton sticks partly out of the water in Biscayne Bay.

A decomposing sperm whale in Biscayne Bay. Photo courtesy of John William Bailly

A decomposing whale in Biscayne Bay is becoming something of a curiosity for kayakers — if they can handle the sight of a bony skull and the stench of rotting blubber.

What's happening: John William Bailly, a professor at Florida International University and artist-in-residence at the Deering Estate, told Axios that he kayaked out to see the sperm whale after hearing about it from naturalists.

  • The marine mammal is decomposing about a 10-minute paddle south of a kayak launch at the estate.
  • "It's just massive, and it's sitting about 15 yards offshore from the mangroves in water that is really not deep," Bailly said of the carcass.

State of play: The whale was a 47-foot-long male that died in Key West in May, Blair Mase, a marine mammal stranding coordinator with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, told Axios.

  • Its stomach was full of fishing line, net pieces, and plastic bags, so it had trouble digesting food, leading to its emaciated condition and stranding.
  • The mammal's skull alone is about 12 feet long, Bailly said. He shared photos of it on Twitter.

The big picture: Sperm whales live in all the world's oceans, in warm and cold waters, but are endangered.

  • "There's really nowhere to dispose of a whale. Like, we can't just take it to the dumpster," Mase said. Her team typically has dead whales towed offshore to the Gulf Stream, which pulls them out to sea. But in this case, the body apparently washed ashore locally.

Between the lines: Biscayne Bay National Park officials had discussed collecting some of the remains for educational purposes, park ranger Liz Strom told Axios. At this point, they'll just be left to natural decomposition.

  • "I am glad to hear that kayakers are enjoying it, though," she said. "It's a unique experience and destination for sure. Only in Miami."

What we're watching: Mase noted that her team monitors a population of sperm whales in the Gulf of Mexico and is concerned about them in the wake of Hurricane Ian.

  • If you spot a sick or dead marine mammal, call 1-800-WHALE-HELP.
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