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article imageDead whale found pinned against Princess Cruises luxury liner

By Lynn Herrmann     Jul 29, 2010 in Environment
Juneau - A dead whale was found pinned to the bow of a Princess Cruises luxury liner near Juneau, Alaska, officials reported on Thursday.
The Sapphire Princess, part of the Princess Cruises luxury liners fleet, was briefly detained on Wednesday by officials with the US Coast Guard and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Marine Fisheries Service.
Julie Speegle, spokeswoman for the NOAA in Junueau, said the whale, believed to be a juvenile humpback, was found Wednesday on the ‘bulbous bow,” a section of the ship’s leading tip that cuts through the water.
The ship’s detainment occurred in an area south of Juneau to open an investigation of the incident and for removal of the whale’s body.
Humpback whales are protected by the US Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
The possible whale strike occurred near Tracy Arm, a fjord famous for its waterfalls, abundant marine life and tidewater glaciers. Tracy Arm is also a top destination for Alaska cruise ships.
According to a statement issued by the company on Thursday, the cruise line expressed surprise over the incident, saying the crew did not notice an impact nor had it seen whales near the ship before discovery of the dead animal, Reuters reports.
While it is unclear at this time whether legal action might be taken against Princess, the company’s statement said it is “fully cooperating” with the investigation over the Tracy Arm incident.
“We were surprised and concerned by this discovery, as the ship felt no impact. It is unknown how or when this could have happened, as we were not aware that any whales were sighted in close proximity to the ship when the whale was discovered," the statement said.
"We have strict whale avoidance procedures in place when our ships are in the vicinity of marine life," the statement continued. The cruise liner immediately notified government officials upon discovery of the whale’s body.
According to the Reuters report, this is the third possible whale strike by a Princess Cruises ship since 2001.
Just last year, a dead fin whale was discovered pinned to the bow of the same cruise ship when returning to Vancouver from an Alaskan voyage.
Princess Cruises paid $750,000 in 2007 in settling a criminal charge related to a 2001 dead whale incident outside Alaska’s Glacier Bay.
In that incident, a pregnant humpback whale was discovered with a crushed skull. While the company did not admit to striking the whale, it pleaded guilty to failure to operate one of its vessels, the Dawn Princess, at a safe speed while in the vicinity of whales.
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