Mexico's Marines rescue baby whale in Manzanillo

After nearly 24 hours of work, staff of the Secretariat of Mexico's Navy floated a humpback whale approximately one year old, 9.40 meters long and weighing six tons, which was stranded on El Eden beach, south of Punta Campos, in Manzanillo. This stretch of black sand beach is one of the most treacherous areas in Manzanillo, known for high waves, swift currents and a strong undertow.

The rescue effort began after a fisherman alerted the Navy to the presence of whales in the vicinity of Punta Campos, and reported that one baby had apparently beached itself.

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The Commander of the Sixth Naval Region called in marine biologists, specialists in underwater work, and more than 100 marine infantrymen to support the whale's to return to the sea.

During the work to free the young whale damage was observed in the right pectoral fin, apparently because of the long time he was lying on that side.

The majority of beached whales often die due to dehydration, the body collapsing under its own weight, or drowning when high tide covers the blowhole.

The successful rescue of the whale involved soldiers on land, aboard a Mexican Coast Guard ship, and a patrol interceptor, and other vehicles with the Eighteenth Infantry Battalion of the Navy. Also present on the scene was an ambulance from the Naval Hospital.

It was necessary to use two bulldozers belonging to the enterprise DRAGAMEX, Mexico's largest dredging company. The bulldozers dug deep holes on the beach to the sea, providing buoyancy to float the whale. Rope mesh was secured around the whale, with other ropes attached to the naval ships out of the wave line. The young whale was gently floated and towed out to sea, where he rejoined his pod.

Within eight days the Mexican Navy rescued two whales stranded off the coasts of Colima. Manzanillo is the home of the Pacific Naval Fleet, headquartered in Las Brisas.

There are many suggested reasons why whales beach themselves: illness, injury, rough weather, weakness due to old age or infection, difficulty giving birth, hunting too close to shore and navigation errors. Recently, a theory advanced by the International Fund for Animal Welfare, suggests another cause--noise pollution.

According to IFAW's report, the underwater clamor has reduced the acoustic range of the blue whale by nine-tenths. The report compiles evidence linking loud human-caused noises with beachings.

Noise pollution in close proximity to El Eden beach includes commercial shipping (the biggest single contributor through its propeller and engine noise), marine construction (where the federal government is building a new port), and dredging (done to deepen and enlarge the new port).

Another possible cause could be within the young whale's echolocation system. Even adult whales can have difficulty picking up very gently-sloping coastlines, as El Eden beach has. The University of Western Australia Bioacoustics group proposes that repeated reflections between the surface and ocean bottom in gently-sloping shallow water may attenuate sound so much that the echo is inaudible to the whales. Stirred up sand and large waves may further exacerbate the effect.

The Mexican Marines and the scientific community of Manzanillo should be congratulated for their success in saving a baby whale in difficult and dangerous conditions.

Today, the Mexican Navy carries out all its activities by itself or in coordination with other national and international government agencies. The Mexican Navy actively participates in the agreements, conventions and treaties it has signed, such as: