UPDATE: 40-foot whale spotted in Elizabeth River dies

Posted at 6:29 PM, Aug 19, 2014
and last updated 2014-08-22 14:48:19-04

A 40-foot whale spotted swimming in circles in the Elizabeth River earlier this week has died.

Early Thursday afternoon the Virginia Aquarium Stranding Response Team reported that they found the motionless whale along the shores of St. Julien’s Creek.

“It wasn’t our place to try and move it. At this point it was going to have to save itself or it wasn’t going to be saved,”Mark Swingle, the director of the Virginia Aquarium Stranding Response Team, said.

The animal was later towed from the bank and a necropsy is expected to be performed Friday to determine the whale's cause of death.

The Virginia Aquarium Stranding Response Team told WTKR that it has been monitoring the whale, which it described as thin and disoriented, since last Thursday.

That's when the whale was originally spotted by the U.S. Coast Guard in the James River between the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel and the Monitor Merrimac Memorial Bridge Tunnel.

Officials said sei whales, which are considered endangered, usually live in the open sea.

Boaters were told to stay away from the whale because tampering with an endangered animal can mean a $50,000 fine.