Massive whale slowly dying off Florida coast as helpless beachgoers watch, photos show


A tragedy is playing out along Florida’s Gulf Coast during spring break as a stranded 50-foot whale struggles to breathe in the surf.

The endangered sperm whale was discovered Saturday, March 9, off Venice and attempts to offer aid have been hampered by dangerous conditions, according to the Venice Police Department. Venice is about a 70-mile drive south from Tampa.

“As of this evening, the whale was still alive, but had labored breathing,” police wrote in a Facebook post late Sunday, March 10.

“Due to high winds and surf, (state) biologists have determined that a response (Monday) with weather conditions more favorable will be their best option.”

Video posted by police showed the struggling marine mammal was thrashing its fins at one point.

The whale is estimated at 50,000 to 70,000 pounds and is stuck on a sandbar about 50 yards off Service Club Park, officials said.

“Unfortunately it appears this will likely be a recovery effort as nature takes its course,” police said.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and Mote Marine Laboratory staff are among those monitoring the whale’s status, officials said.

A perimeter has been set up around the whale in the water and along a stretch of beach, officials said.

The saga has gotten thousands of comments on social media, including some people who begged officials to put the whale out of its misery. Others held out hope it could be saved.

“I can’t stand to read this anymore. Devastating!” Kerry Kee Pierson wrote on the police department’s Facebook page.

“Saddest thing ever. Can’t believe we have to just let it sit out there and die. Of all the technologies in this world and we can get this big giant back out to sea?” Stephanie Hensley posted.

“Can someone tell me why it can’t at least be sedated to stop the suffering? I understand they can’t get close, but can’t they shoot something into him?” Tracee Chapman said.

Sperm whales are found in every ocean and can reach 90,000 pounds, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says.

“Sperm whales hunt for food during deep dives that routinely reach depths of 2,000 feet and can last for 45 minutes,” NOAA reports. “They are capable of diving to depths of over 10,000 feet for over 60 minutes.”

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