UPDATE 8/9: A spokeswoman for the Virginia Aquarium says the plastic found in the stomach of the whale has been identified as a plastic DVD case.
"Enjoy the Labor Day Weekend but to please be responsible for all of [your] trash, especially along the waterways," spokeswoman Joan Barns said. "And, for citizens to add a bit of extra labor to their day by picking up others debris."
PORTSMOUTH -- A necropsy was performed Friday on a 45-foot sei whale that had been swimming in the Elizabeth River since last week and died Thursday.
A large sharp piece of rigid, black plastic was found. This may have caused the lining of the stomach to be damaged and may have prevented the animal from feeding normally. There was no evidence that the whale had fed recently.
Aquarium Research Coordinator Susan Barco said, “It is possible that the whale was weak from lack of feeding due to the foreign material in its stomach. This may explain why it wandered into an unusual area like the Elizabeth River.”
The stranding team towed the nearly 40-thousand pound mammal to a facility at Craney Island and members of the stranding team, headed by a biologist from UNC-Wilmington, performed the necropsy.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Norfolk District, was providing heavy equipment and the location for the whale necropsy.
Stranding team spokeswoman Sandra Barco told 13News Now the whale was an adult female, not a juvenile as previously reported and was 45 feet long and weighed 45,000 pounds.
Barco said there were signs of a traumatic collision. A bruise above the left jaw ran about 11 to 12 feet down the side of the whale and she believes this caused blood trauma.
It is uncertain Whether a collision with a sailing vessel caused the injury before or after the whale showed up at Lambert's Point.
The whale was first spotted August 14th in the James River between the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel and the Monitor-Merrimac Memorial Bridge-Tunnel and didn't seem to be in any distress, officials said.
On Wednesday, it was stuck on the bottom near the bridge; officials were hoping it would free itself at high tide and be able to swim to deeper water
Marine Patrol Police were with the Virginia Aquarium's Stranding Response Team Thursday to monitor the whale and found it motionless off St. Julien's Creek Annex in Portsmouth.
Barco said it is rare for sei whales to be so far inland.
After Friday's necropsy, the whale will be buried at Craney Island.
A 60-foot fin whale that weighed 20 tons and died near Lambert's Point in March of 2007 is also buried at Craney Island.