In the past month and a half, at least six fin whales – the second largest whale species after the bruises – have been found dead. All of them suffered from malnutrition and showed signs of bleeding in the cardiac and respiratory systems.
The last one was discovered on Friday near Saint-Hilaire-de-Riez. It was nearly 16 meters (52 feet) tall and weighed about 10 tons.
In an average year, between three and at most ten whales are deposited dead on the beaches of France, according to scientists.
“We have what is almost an epidemic or, at any rate, an abnormal spike in death,” Willy Dabin, a Pelagis Observatory researcher working on the corpse, told Reuters news agency.
“The question lurking in the background is: are humans contributing to their ability to disrupt the environment?” Dabin asked. “Either by affecting food availability or by polluting the living environment, which could make whales more vulnerable to disease,” she said.
Officials put guards near the carcass on weekends to keep intrigued residents at bay.
“It’s disgusting,” said one local resident. “I don’t know how they’re going to take it off. Cut it piece by piece?
Although these fin whales have no apparent signs of being struck by a vessel or caught in the net of a trawler, human vessel traffic and plastic waste continue to pose a threat to fin whales.
The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) estimates that between 10 and 40 fin whales die each year in the Pelagos Sanctuary – a marine area subject to an agreement between Italy, Monaco and France for the protection of marine mammals – due to fishing nets or collision with vessels.
According to the WWF, the risk of additional accidents of this type is probable, which predicts that maritime traffic is expected to increase by 4% each year for the next 10 years.
Overall, more than a million land and marine species around the world are threatened with extinction due to human activity, according to a damning report released by the United Nations last year. This is a record number compared to any other period in human history.