A blue whale estimated to be 45 to 60 feet long was seen in the Gulf of Eilat on Wednesday, the first time the giant marine creature has been positively identified in Israeli coastal waters.
Dafna Feingold, who coordinates aquatic mammal data for the Israel Marine Mammal Research & Assistance Center (IMMRAC) told Ynet that “this is the first piece of evidence of the existence of a new species in the Red Sea. It’s the first time unequivocal photographic proof of a blue whale in the Gulf of Suez and the Red Sea came to light.”
As big as it is, Feingold said the whale is probably not yet fully grown. Whales of this kind can reach up to 100 feet and weigh up to 130 tons.
She added that while it was possible a blue whale may have previously visited Israel’s shores, this was the first documented sighting.
“The reason they aren’t often seen in our region is that they don’t have enough food (here), and I imagine it will be making its way to the southern Red Sea before long,” she explained.
Dr. Assaf Zvuloni, head biologist of the national marine reserve in Eilat, noted that, “Israel and the gulf of Eilat were a long way away from its area of distribution. The size of the specimen was observed to be at least 20 meters (60 feet), based on measurements comparing it to IMMRAC’s pier.”
Zvuloni said the whale may actually be larger when taking into account parts of its body that were submerged in the water at the time of sighting.
“This is a highly exciting sighting. Whales sometimes migrate great distances,” he said. “On occasion, certain specimens increase their migrations range. This wasn’t the first time whales have been sighted in the Gulf of Eilat, but never one of this size.”