Photographer Posts Image Showing Whale With Severed Tail to Highlight the Dangers of Boating

Photographer Posts Image Showing Whale With Severed Tail to Highlight the Dangers of Boating

An underwater photographer has captured the dramatic aftermath of a pilot whale having its tail sliced off due to a collision with a boat propellor. Now, the image is being used to highlight the dangers that boating through busy wildlife areas poses.

Taken off the Canary Islands, the image comes courtesy of photographer Francis Pérez, and was recently shared to Instagram on Wednesday by fellow photographer Cristina Mittermeier.

Attention was brought to the pilot whale after its “shrilling calls of pain and fear” could be heard. It was then that Pérez came to the scene, accompanied by a wildlife veterinarian and a marine biologist. So severe was the injury that the team were left with no choice but to euthanize the animal.

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Extremely sensitive content. Please watch. Photo by @FrancisPerez000. This horrific image of a young pilot whale that lost its tail after being hit by a boat propeller off the coast of the Canary Islands is meant to be a wake up call. Was it hit by a ship, a ferry or a pleasure boat? We will never know, but I have certainly seen many boats traveling at high speeds through sensitive wildlife corridors. Only three people were there to hear the shrilling calls of pain and fear of this young whale as it struggled to swim. The photographer, the marine biologist and the wildlife veterinarian who were called to the scene were not able to help an animal with such a severe injury. All they could do was pull it out of the water and, with the kind of sorrow that can only be understood by people with enough empathy to do what they had to do, they euthanized it. Sparing more unnecessary suffering to an animal with no chance of recovery was what they had to do. What the rest of us need to do is to become more engaged it. Enforcing regulations on vessel speed limits is very difficult but it all begins with awareness and public pressure; the kind that demands that the voices of thousands of people are heard. As angry and sad as this makes me, I am also extremely motivated to do something about this. I am working with @SeaLegacy to create a global movement of people who want to push for legislative changes that prevent this type of accident. You can add your voice to ours by going to the link on my bio.

A post shared by Cristina Mittermeier (@mitty) on

Mittermeier, who works with ocean conservation organization SeaLegacy, said:

All they could do was pull it out of the water and, with the kind of sorrow that can only be understood by people with enough empathy to do what they had to do, they euthanized it.

She added that it was a “horrific image” and should act as a “wake-up call.”

The Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC) says many species of whales feed, play, rest and socialize in these “urbanized marine highways,” often unknowingly putting themselves at risk of being struck by vessels.

Collisions between whales and boats are seemingly difficult to avoid, because sometimes, whales surface abruptly for air, providing very little notice to any passing boaters.

Lead image: guille pozzi on Unsplash.

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9 Comments

Victoria de Martigny's picture

I saw the image of the pilot whale on my IG feed and it broke my heart. The images produced by Paul Nicklen, Christina Mittermeier and the other photographers who work so tirelessly to preserve ocean life via Sea Legacy are truly making a difference in the world. Photography can be very powerful to drive social change and I love when talented artists use their photography skills to help others see what would otherwise continue to happen in secrecy.

Motti Bembaron's picture

Seeing that I had a sharp pain in my chest. What a devastating injury. What a sad sight.

Pilot of boat was probably watching his phone for all we know. i have seen so many speed boats go crazy over water that it makes me sick to think that they are being piloted by so called intelligent humans.

Logan Cressler's picture

It was most likely not a speedboat, dont make assumptions, it was most likely a large tanker or cargo vessel. They dont slow down, speed up, or make any turns very fast.

William Faucher's picture

I'm not sure what the photographers point is here? Dangers of boating? It really sucks when something like this happens, but I would say it's pretty hard to avoid a whale in the open seas. Rough water, combined with the whales tendency to suddenly appear gives little time for a ship captain to react, if they even see the whales at all.

What is the alternative here? I am all for highlighting problems, but at least provide a solution, or a change we can make.

Don't get me wrong, this is awful, and my heart hurts a little at the sight. But I just can't see what can be done to avoid it.

They could add a stator around the propellor. Makes it safer and more efficient at the same time.

C Fisher's picture

That's why there's boat speed limits in certain areas, to give the sea life time to move.

Jeff Walsh's picture

First off, I am a huge animal advocate. I volunteer my photography services all the time to help animals. With that said, I feel like this article is missing some facts. I saw this post on my IG feed, and I'm glad the people there had the strength to put this beautiful creature out of its misery, however, this article implies a problem with boaters. It may have been the boaters fault, but that's an assumption.

I agree that we MUST coexist with the natural world around us, but at the same time, there's only so much that can be done. Accidents happen, and I'm curious if this was negligence on the boater or just the whale colliding at the wrong place at the wrong time. In either case the result is just horrific.

Logan Cressler's picture

Photographer takes picture of roadkill to highlight problem with cars driving.