A sperm whale that was spotted drifting off the coast of Florida on Sunday has died and authorities are planning an investigation into its death after a swimmer was seen straddling the animal.
NBCNews.com reports that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration plans to look into a report from resident of Pompano Beach, Margie Casey, who said she saw the whale alive earlier in the day and saw one of two swimmers get on top of the whale.
'This whale was likely ill or injured and that is why it came in so close to shore,' said Blair Mase of NOAA.
'This type of harassment could have caused more harm and added stress to an already stressed whale and ultimately caused its demise.'
Mase said it is a federal offence to harass a marine mammal and 'people need to be aware that they shouldn't do that'.
Marine scientist Stefan Harzen said it is possible a boat struck the whale or something simply made the whale sick.
'There's really very little you can do for a whale if it gets seriously ill or injured,' he said.
CBS Miami reported that a marine biologist monitoring the whale's progress noted that it had scarring, which may have come from it being hit by a boat.
Witness Margie Casey told NBC 6 that she watched the swimmers twice go up on the whale from her fifth-floor balcony.
She said she considered the whale to be alive as it was flapping its tail at the time. She added that perhaps it was on its 'last leg'.
Sperm whales are the largest of the toothed whales and an endangered species.
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