Dead whales along the coastline prompt federal investigation

A dead whale washed ashore in Toms River. A dead whale washed ashore in Toms River.

Federal authorities have launched an investigation after a series of dead whales washed up along the United States coastline, including several at the Jersey Shore.

A 43-foot Sei whale washed ashore in Toms River Wednesday. Crews had to cut up the whale because it was so badly decomposed. It was removed from the beach later that evening. Officials were not able to determine the cause of death.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries reports that 41 dead humpback whales have washed up on beaches from Maine to North Carolina over the last year and a half. This prompted NOAA to issue an Unusual Mortality Event.

“NOAA Fisheries will work with experts to review data from the 41 cases sampling data and analysis,” says NOAA Fisheries stranding coordinator Mendy Garron.

Officials say that no data supports any widespread change in the number of deceased whales. But the data does show a higher number of boat and whale collisions. Of the 41 dead humpback whales found, 10 were determined to have been killed by boat strikes.

“A vessel of any size can harm a whale, smaller vessels tend to be propeller strikes and larger vessels appear to be blunt trauma, so it could be a vessel of any size,” says NOAA Fisheries large whale recovery coordinator Greg Silber.

NOAA says that scientists will continue to look at all factors to determine why the whales have died, including boat strikes, ocean temperatures and disease.

Scientists say that the humpback population in the northern portion of the Atlantic Ocean is between 10,000 and 11,000.

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