‘Debris’ floating in Gulf of Mexico turns out to be 3 endangered creatures


CLARIFICATION: This story has been updated to reflect that Coast Guard officials identified the whales spotted in the Gulf of Mexico as sperm whales after previously identifying them as critically endangered Rice’s whales. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration also told McClatchy News in a statement that they are sperm whales.

The story continues below.

Coast Guard officers were conducting a routine patrol in the Gulf of Mexico when they spotted something strange.

The officers from the U.S. Coast Guard Station Venice were on a Living Marine Resource patrol — which seeks to protect fish and marine resources — near the Mississippi Canyon, a spokesperson told McClatchy News. That’s when they saw what appeared to be a pile of debris floating in the water.

As the officers got closer though, they realized they had discovered something much more special: It was three 25-foot sperm whales.

Officials shared a video of one of the creatures swimming through the water in a Sept. 24 Facebook post.

The video shows a sperm whale, a spokesperson from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration wrote in an email to McClatchy News.

Sperm whales are endangered and are typically found in Alaska and the northern Atlantic, according to Whale Sense. The deep-diving creatures are known to prey on squid, sharks and other fish. Females can grow to 40 feet and 15 tons, while males can be up to 52 feet and 45 tons.

The whales were spotted roughly 30 miles south of the SouthWest Pass, which is south of New Orleans.

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