Multiple news sources are reporting that the Grand Princess operated by Princess Cruises struck a humpback whale two days ago. The dead whale was discovered lodged on the cruise ship’s bulbous bow upon entering the port in Ketchikan, Alaska.
Cruise ship-whale strikes are hardly uncommon. This latest incident is reportedly the second time in two years involving a whale strike caused by a cruise ship in Alaska; Holland America’s Zaandam struck an endangered fin whale last year and carried the dead whale into port in Seward on its bulbous bow.
The Princess Cruises PR spokesperson claims that the Princess cruise ship did not spot any whales near the ship as it sailed toward Ketchikan. Princess also floated out the possibility that the whale was "already deceased before becoming lodged on the bow" – the usual PR spin when a cruise ship strikes a whale.
A necrosis will later address whether the whale was in fact alive or dead at the time that the cruise ship struck it.
A cruise passenger sent photographs of the incident, one of which is below.
Several years ago, environmental groups filed a petition with the federal government seeking to force cruise ships and other large vessels to slow down in order to reduce the chances of whale strikes. The petition was focused on the waters between San Francisco and Los Angeles, but it signaled the importance of environmental groups concerned with marine life who share the oceans with super tankers and today’s increasingly larger cruise ships.
In one of the most graphic photographs of a cruise ship / whale strike, in 2009 the Princess Cruises’ Sapphire Princess arrived in port in Vancouver, unaware that the cruise ship impaled a fin whale on the ship’s bow while in Alaskan waters. The whale was a female fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus). Princess claimed that the whale was already dead when the cruise ship hit her.
Of those whale-strikes which are reported, it is quite unusual for the dead whale to be noticed only when it is brought into a port on the bow of a large ship as indicated on this comprehensive report published by the U.S. Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and National Marine Fisheries Service.
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August 11, 2017 Update: Meanwhile, Ottawa to force ships to slow down to prevent whale deaths in Gulf of St. Lawrence.