A young whale that appeared to have been attacked by sharks died off Sihanoukville’s popular Ochateal beach Friday, Fisheries Administration officials said.
The female calf—which weighed approximately 800 kg and was more than 5 meters in length—was sighted offshore early Friday morning, said Duong Sam Ath, chief of the Sihanoukville office of the Ministry of Agriculture’s Fisheries Administration, on Sunday.
“We found a big wound, about 30 cm long, on its tail and very deep,” he said, adding that it was likely killed by sharks after becoming separated from other whales.
He said the whale was probably attacked far offshore, and that sharks do not pose a threat to tourists.
Fisheries Administration officials discovered the whale still alive about 50 meters from shore around 7 am Friday. It succumbed to its wounds shortly after, Duong Sam Ath said.
A Fisheries Administration official who declined to be named said Friday that the whale was definitely attacked by sharks. “Fishermen saw four sharks bite the baby whale,” he said, adding that the anglers told him the whale fled from its attackers into shallow water.
Duong Sam Ath could not specify the whale’s species. However, Touch Seang Tana, an Irrawaddy river dolphin-preservation official with the Council of Ministers, said that it was possibly a Minke whale.
The Minke feed by filtering water in their mouths rather than hunt and can grow up to 10 meters in length, according to the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society. Duong Sam Ath said that, after expiring, the whale was hauled ashore by fishermen and butchered for food.
Once villagers had carved most of the meat off the carcass, fisheries officials took the carcass to the provincial agriculture department compound, he said.
Duong Sam Ath said he has plans for the remains. “I am going to ask permission from the Fisheries Administration to display the skeleton in the future,” he said.
(Additional reporting by John Maloy)