Published Thursday, 16 August 2012
The whale spent three days trapped in the harbour in Cork. (© PA)
The young 46ft fin whale swam into shallow water at Baltimore in west Cork on Tuesday morning, becoming stuck there.
The whale was seen thrashing around in the water, causing itself injury and further distress.
But on Thursday, after the creature failed to move or breathe for a number of hours, it was found to have died.
"It's a relief really, as we were all expecting it to die last night," Simon Berrow from the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group said.
"It was very distressed this morning and we were beginning to consider alternative options to put it out of its misery."
I don't care about people's insecurities, I look at it from the whale's perspective.
Simon Berrow, Irish Whale and Dolphin Group
Shootings are carried out in such circumstances around the world, as they are often considered the quickest and cleanest option.
Before the whale died, the IWDG confirmed it was exploring the option with the Naval Services and the Army of using a high-powered rifle.
The debate will now centre on how to best minimise suffering in any future cases.
According to the IWDG, attempting a refloat of a live stranded whale is potentially very dangerous for rescuers and is often not a realistic undertaking due to their size.
Euthanasia through administering drugs is also frequently ruled out as some of the drugs for large animals are not available in the Republic as they are highly toxic.
Where such drugs are used, problems also arise over then disposing of the carcass to protect other animals which may feed on it.
Even shooting is difficult as the thick layer of blubber can result in only non-fatal injuries being sustained by the whale, leaving the most humane approach to sometimes be doing nothing.
In those instances, the IWDG urges people to "treat it with some respect, give it space, don't go near it, throw anything near it or do anything to increase the stress it is already under".
Fin whales are an endangered species which can grow to around 90ft long and weigh over 70 tonnes.