'Struggling' 50-Foot Whale Stranded in Delaware Beach Sandbar

Officials are monitoring a 50-foot fin whale that is moving closer to the shore, a day after it was reported stranded on a sandbar off the Delaware coast.

The fin whale, which according to the World Wide Fund for Nature is "the second largest mammal in the world" after the blue whale, became stranded on a sandbar at the bayside of the Point at Cape Henlopen State Park in Lewes, Delaware, on Thursday morning.

Although the whale was initially identified by the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control as a humpback, the Marine Education, Research and Rehabilitation Institute (MERR) later corrected the agency and confirmed that the stranded mammal was a fin whale.

In a statement on Facebook on Thursday evening, MERR said that the whale had moved from the sandbar and had travelled closer to the shore instead of deeper water, which the institute described as "not a good sign."

MERR added that "the whale seems to be struggling, and in the process of beaching itself," prompting biologists to stand by "to monitor the animal."

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"At this time, we do not know what has caused this whale to strand, but when large whales come close to shore like this, there is usually an underlying reason like injury or disease. The team on scene has not identified any obvious injuries at this point," the institute wrote on Thursday evening.

"Sadly, in situations like this, there is often very little we can do to help save the whale; returning the whale to deeper water, which is a challenge under the best of circumstances for animals of this size and weight, would only prolong its suffering and it would likely strand again."

The institute said fin whales are listed as endangered and urged any local residents to stay "at least 150 feet away from living whales, including by vessel or drone, for everyone's safety."

An increasing amount of whales are turning up on beaches across the U.S., with a fin whale washing up on Bolsa Chica State Beach, Orange County, California, in May.

Due to the size of the whale, which was reported as 65-feet-long by The Los Angeles Times and 58-feet by The OC Register, the mammal was taken to landfill as it was not feasible for it to be buried.

There are a number of ways to deal with the carcass of a beached whale, including composting, taking it out to sea, or burying it on the beach.

Just a few weeks before the mammal washed up to shore in California, two fin whales became dislodged after the destroyer HMAS Sydney berthed at Naval Base San Diego, where it was completing joint exercise with the U.S. Navy.

Vessel strikes are among the biggest threats for fin whales due to their size, and at the time of the incident experts told Newsweek it was likely the whales killed were a mother and her calf.

Newsweek has contacted MERR and the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control for comment.

Fin whale in sea
File photo of a fin whale in the Mediterranean Sea. A 50-foot fin whale is being monitored after moving closer to the shore after being reported stranded on a sandbar off of the Delaware coast on Thursday morning. Susann Guenther/iStock / Getty Images Plus