Initial results from a necropsy Thursday in St. Augustine show that the 2-year-old female had rope deeply embedded in its mouth, which probably kept the whale from feeding.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration spokeswoman Karrie Carnes said initial observations suggest that sharks then killed the malnourished whale because it was in a weakened state. Scientists are still conducting tests to confirm the cause of death.
Scientists sedated the whale Jan. 15 so boat teams could get close and cut some of the fishing line tangling it. It was the second time the technique was used on a free-swimming whale.
Carnes said sedation does not appear to be a factor in the whale's death.