Waimanalo Bay Remained Closed Following Whale Carcass Removal
The circle of life was honored at a beach on O´ahu Wednesday.
The City and County of Honolulu Department of Parks and Recreation kept Waimanalo Bay Beach Park closed, following the removal of the body of a Hawaiian Humpback whale there earlier that morning.
The 25 to 35-ton carcass was first spotted in the ocean off the beach Tuesday morning, along with at least three large Tiger sharks that were feeding on it. Overnight, as expected, the whale’s body washed into the shore break.
Fifty people, including many from agencies involved in the response to the incident, participated in a Hawaiian blessing and pule from Kalani Kalima of Waimānalo. Others were from the community or visitors to O‘ahu.
They watched and listened as Kalima described the cultural importance of blessing koholā (whale) as part of the circle of life. Native Hawaiians have a strong closeness to the natural world and aumakua, which can take the form of animals, like whales and sharks, according to information provided by a DLNR press release.
Kalima said he was impressed with the multi-agency response, which included county, state, and federal agencies. Heavy equipment from the C&C departments of Parks and Recreation and Facilities Maintenance, along with the U.S. Air Force at Bellows, helped move the carcass from the shoreline into trucks. Private companies also donated time and equipment. The whale was buried on private land.
He said the level of cooperation was good for the people of Waimānalo to witness.
“Seeing the city, state, and federal agencies all working together, brings back harmony that’s been lacking in government,” Kalima said. “It allows people to believe, you know what, that there’s still good and caring people in government.”
The decision to keep the park closed until Thursday is based on the potential continued presence of sharks in the water. While crews were able to remove most of the body, there is some tissue remaining in the ocean and possibly on the beach. Shark signs will stay up and Ocean Safety Lifeguards will continue to warn beach goers until sharks are no longer observed in the area.
Experts believe the whale was either an adult or sub-adult and probably died within the past week. If possible, they will try to determine its cause of death. A small number of Hawaiian Humpback whales perish each season in Hawai‘i’s waters, often due to disease or other natural causes.