Endangered whale washes ashore in Tunisia

Nine-tonne mammal died after becoming entangled in a fishing net near the tourist town of Sidi Bou Said.

Last updated: 10 Mar 2014 12:24
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Beaching of marine mammals is becoming more common on Tunisia's coast [Aymen Ben Mansour/Al Jazeera]

The carcass of a nine-tonne fin whale has been discovered off the coast of Tunis, a rare find in the Mediterranean.

The 12.8-metre mammal was caught in a fishing net on Sunday near the coastal tourist town of Sidi Bou Said and then brought ashore, surprising local residents and marine scientists.

"It was found next to the Presidential Palace in Carthage," Mohamed Abdel Mounem Belhassen, the 43-year-old fisherman who found the whale, told Al Jazeera on Monday.

He discovered the whale in eight to nine metres of water about a kilometre from the beach after it became entangled in a fishing net, preventing it from resurfacing to breathe.

Belhassen brought other boats and eventually rented a truck to help move the whale to shore, a process that took about 12 hours.

A small section of the young mammal was removed for analysis, while the rest was to be buried in a pit in the nearby town of Raoued, according to a National Guard official.

The skeleton would eventually be displayed at a marine wildlife museum, said Sami Mahmani, president of Houtiyat, a Tunisian marine mammal protection organisation.

The second largest mammal in the world, the fin whale is an endangered species.

Although Sunday's find was unusual, Mohamed Ali Ben Temessek, a Tunisian marine biology specialist, told Al Jazeera that the beaching of marine mammals "is becoming more and more frequent on the Tunisian coast."

In February 2012, a 12-metre, 15-tonne sperm whale washed ashore on Sidi Daoud beach in Tunisia. Two years earlier, a grey whale appeared off the coast of Israel, shocking scientists who believed the North Atlantic population of the species was extinct.


Al Jazeera
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