Sperm whale carcass off Kauai has been buried

Jan. 31—Wildlife officials say the cause of death of a 60-ton sperm whale that washed up on the shoreline of Lydgate Beach on Kauai Saturday will likely not be determined for some time.

The Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources said the whale carcass, with the help of excavators and high tide, was brought to the beach on Sunday for a post-mortem exam, and then buried on Sunday night.

Dr. Kristi West and her team from the University of Hawaii Health and Stranding Lab performed the exam, but experts will not be able to settle on an exact cause of death until lab tests return, which takes several months.

"There are many possible causes including disease, injuries from a vessel strike, entanglement with discarded fishing line, or ingestion of plastic marine debris," said West in a news release. "It's important for us to probe each death of our marine mammals, sentinel animals like this whale, as that can provide information and data that helps inform management decisions and can provide a more complete picture of species health."

DLNR said the whale was buried in an area approved by the State Historical Preservation Division to ensure no iwi kupuna will be disturbed.

The sperm whale has been listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act since 1970, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which means it is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range.

Sperm whales are also listed as depleted under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

Officials warned it is against both federal and state law to remove any body parts or bones from these whales.

Kauai County officials said Lydgate Beach Park is scheduled to reopen to the public on Wednesday.