Published: Tue, May 09, 2017
Sci-tech | By Carrie Guzman

Whale Strandings, Deaths Alarm Federal Officials

Whale Strandings, Deaths Alarm Federal Officials

Suzanne Thurman, executive director of the Marine Education, Research and Rehabilitation Institute, Delaware's marine mammal stranding team, said the whale appears to be a juvenile humpback. The question remains whether a large boat can navigate the shallow waters near Port Mahon.

The average number of humpback whales found stranded annually from ME to North Carolina is 14 per year.

A baffling surge in humpback whale deaths from ME through North Carolina - including eight in Virginia waters - has triggered a federal "unusual mortality event" declaration and an investigation into its cause.

It's roughly a 240 percent increase since 2000, when 12 humpback whales were found dead in the region.

Further, the act protects marine mammal health and stranding response program, which improves the response rates for stranding, as well as unusual mortality events.

The other whale carcass NOAA counts as being found in Maryland actually drifted past the state's coastline well offshore earlier this year and eventually landed on the Virginia coast, Driscoll said.

Out of the 41 dead humpbacks, scientists have conducted necropsies on 20 of them.

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"Smaller vessels - they tend to be propeller strikes", Silber said. "Most operators are completely unaware they hit one, and we don't get a lot of calls because of it".

Whales are said to be oblivious to the presence of boats when they are feeding or socializing.

While no humpbacks have died off Cape Ann recently, last May, the 29-year-old Foggy was discovered entangled in fishing gear about 4 miles off the coast of Gloucester and Rockport.

"We do have two sites on the Kaneohe Marine Corps Base Hawaii (Pyramid Rock and Monument Point Overlook, also known as Mokapu Point) that for the most part only military volunteers attend due to military access of the base", Cindy Among-Serrao of NOAA said. They displayed evidence of blunt force trauma and deep cuts in their bodies from propeller blades. "We're still combing through the results, it could change", said Deborah Fauquier, veterinary medical officer, NOAA Fisheries Office of Protected Resources. Forty-one whales died in less than 15 months, puzzling marine biologists, who deemed it an "unusual mortality event". "Humpback whale stranding events will continue to be closely monitored and prioritized for response efforts throughout ME to North Carolina". It was impossible to determine what happened to the two other animals because they were so decomposed.

All of this has led the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to declare an unusual mortality event.

The cause of those three UMEs was undetermined, Fauquier said.

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