AMCS Necropsy on Humpback Whale in Montauk

On Wednesday, July 24, 2019, Atlantic Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) received a report from NYS Department of Environmental Conservation about a deceased humpback whale floating approximately 6 miles offshore in Montauk. Working with USCG Sector Long Island Sound, East Hampton Police Department, NOAA Fisheries, and NYS DEC, we formulated a response plan to bring the animal to shore for a necropsy.

On Friday, July 16, 2019, the animal was secured on a Montauk beach and the examination began. Due to the level of decomposition, AMCS was unable to determine a cause of death for the 30-foot female humpback whale. Samples were taken and sent to a pathologist to help uncover what may have happened to this animal. The remains were disposed of by the town. AMCS also had additional support from East Hampton Marine Patrol and USCG Station Montauk.

The public expressed some concern about shark activity. From NOAA Fisheries:
There are several factors that are taken into consideration when towing deceased marine mammals, such as large whales, to shore in regards to human safety.  The area is monitored for shark activity before efforts to move the whale begin and during any towing operations. Removal of the whale from the water onto shore for examination and appropriate disposal reduces the risk of attracting sharks. Towing the whale further out to sea would only delay its eventual landing on shore. Best practices to dispose of a large whale once onshore include deep burial on a sandy beach or disposal in a municipal landfill or compost facility. NOAA and stranding network responders consult with local and state agencies to develop a disposal plan before any action is taken.

Examination of deceased whales is essential to conservation efforts. By uncovering what threats these animals face in the marine environment, stranding network partners can help other animals in the future. For humpback whales specifically, there has been an Unusual Mortality Event (UME) in effect along the Atlantic coast since 2016. Stranding network organizations examine as many of these animals as possible to help determine what is impacting the species. More information on the humpback whale UME is available on the NOAA website.

Many shark species, including sand tiger, sandbar, dusky, thresher, and white sharks naturally occur along the New York coastline during summer months. To learn more about sharks in New York waters, check out the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

The public is encouraged to report injured and deceased marine mammals and sea turtles to the NYS Stranding Hotline by calling 631.369.9829. Sightings of marine wildlife are also helpful and can be shared with AMCS by emailing sightings@amseas.org.

News Coverage:
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News 12
Newsday and here
Patch
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The Sag Harbor Express

AMCS Responds to Entangled Humpback Whale

On Monday, July 15, 2019 Atlantic Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) received a report about a live humpback whale entangled in fishing net offshore in Sagaponack. As live whale entanglements are extremely dangerous, it was critical that AMCS coordinate a response plan with NOAA Fisheries Service, Center for Coastal Studies, and NYS Department of Environmental Conservation.

Disentanglement procedures are extremely dangerous, even for those with decades of experience. Working with the various agencies and local authorities to formulate a response plan involving highly trained responders and specialized safety equipment, AMCS also had support from support from Town of Southampton Police, Bay Constable, and USCG Station Shinnecock to get on the water to look for the whale yesterday. Before disentanglement efforts began, the whale had freed itself and was not seen in the area since. It is believed to be free of the fishing net.

Safety is of the utmost importance. Some members of the public paddled out to the whale in hopes of cutting it loose. While we understand what members of the public were trying to do came from a good place, it was an extreme risk that thankfully left them unharmed. Reviewing the incident and studying the netting shows the whale likely freed itself exclusive from those efforts and we urge the public to always keep a distance of 150 feet from these federally protected animals. Their desire to help is not lost on us and is greatly appreciated, but it is critical to let authorized and experienced experts do the work. Great care must also be taken in responses like this as the animals do not realize people are there to help, which can cause stress and more harm. We are continuing to work with our network partners to train our team and other local agencies to assist.

The public is encouraged to report injured and deceased marine mammals and sea turtles to the NYS Stranding Hotline by calling 631.369.9829. Sightings of marine wildlife are also helpful and can be shared with AMCS by emailing sightings@amseas.org.

News Coverage:
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Patch
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AMCS Performs Necropsy on Humpback Whale - First of 2019

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On Sunday, May 5, 2019 Atlantic Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) received a call from Suffolk County Parks on about a deceased humpback whale that washed up at Cupsogue County Park in Westhampton. A response plan was formulated with the necropsy examination being completed today.

On Monday, AMCS worked with Suffolk County Parks to move the animal out of the surf and did an initial external exam. The 37-foot female was in good condition with healed scars around the fluke, consistent with a previous entanglement. There were no other exterior wounds or scars.

Today, the team arrived onsite around 7:30 a.m. to begin the necropsy examination. Prior to the exam, Shane Weeks of Shinnecock Nation performed a ceremony to bless the animal. During the examination, AMCS necropsy program director Kimberly Durham found that the animal was not a mature female, likely between six to eight years of age. She also found extensive bruising and skull fractures consistent with a vessel strike. Samples were taken and will be sent to a pathologist to discover more information that may inform the cause of death. Those results may take several months to come back. The examination was completed by 2 p.m. and the remains were buried on the beach.

“The humpback whales we see stranding on our shores are typically juveniles,” says AMCS necropsy program director Kimberly Durham. “This is a much larger animal than we typically see. Because of its size, there may be a chance the Center for Coastal Studies may have documentation of this animal. Part of the examination includes taking photos of the fluke, which helps identify the animal. We will be sharing these photos with our partners to see if we can learn more about the animal’s history.”

AMCS worked with several partners to complete the response. “As the lead large whale organization in New York State, we often rely on the help of partners, volunteers, and donors to complete this work,” says AMCS chief scientist and founder Rob DiGiovanni. “We worked with AMCS volunteers, Suffolk County Parks, Suffolk County Park Police, NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries, Mystic Aquarium’s Marine Animal Rescue Team, and Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. Support from these other organizations was instrumental in today’s efforts.

This is the first large whale to strand in New York this year. An unusual mortality event has been in effect for humpback whales since 2016. More information about the UME, including stranding numbers along the Atlantic coast, can be found here: https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/national/marine-life-distress/2016-2019-humpback-whale-unusual-mortality-event-along-atlantic-coast

The public is encouraged to report injured and deceased marine mammals and sea turtles to the NYS Stranding Hotline by calling 631.369.9829. Sightings of marine wildlife are also helpful and can be shared with AMCS by emailing sightings@amseas.org.

If you’re out on the water in this area, please keep a close lookout for whales, and remember to give them plenty of room. See NOAA’s approach guidelines.

Press Coverage:
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Hamptons.com
NBC
Newsday
NY Post
Patch.com and here
The Southampton Press and here
WSHU

CBS New York: Scientists Examining Spike In Marine Life Deaths On L.I.

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“Sea animals are being rescued, rehabilitated and returned to the wild. But since January, many of the marine strandings resulted in death. Now there’s a push to solve the disturbing puzzle. It’s an unusual spike in marine life deaths. One day alone this week, eight beached animals washed up on Long Island‘s north and south forks.

‘The data’s important. Already, these numbers have almost tripled?’ CBS2’s Jennifer McLogan asked marine scientist Robert DiGiovanni of the Atlantic Marine Conservation Society.

‘It looks like three times what it was this time last year. So we are at 63 animals that we have responded to, that have washed up dead on our beaches,” DiGiovanni said.

DiGiovanni says there are fluctuations through the decades, and his group is in search of answers.

‘Understanding why these animals strand. Is it a variety of reasons or just one cause?’ he said.”

Watch the CBS New York story featuring Atlantic Marine Conservation Society here.

National Geographic: Whales are dying along East Coast—and scientists are racing to understand why

Paul Nicklen photo for National Geographic

Paul Nicklen photo for National Geographic

“Let’s at least be aware that they’re out there,” DiGiovanni says. “We all drive slower in a school zone, and this isn’t a major impact in our lives. It’s for the good of the animals.”

Atlantic Marine Conservation Society founder and chief scientist Rob DiGiovanni discusses the humpback whale unusual mortality event in National Geographic!

VIRGINIA BEACH, VA.On a blustery winter afternoon off the coast of Virginia Beach, people are pressing forward on the bow of the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center’s whale watching boat as a dorsal fin breaks the surface. Cameras click in staccato for a second or two before the humpback whale dives to feed again.
Read this great collective piece here.

AMCS Performs Necropsy on Stranded Minke Whale in Oyster Bay

On Friday, December 21, 2018, Atlantic Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) received a report of a live minke whale that had stranded on a Center Island beach in Oyster Bay in the morning. The gentlemen that discovered the whale sent photos and video to sightings@amseas.org to share with the team, also letting them know the whale had freed itself and was last seen swimming away. In the afternoon, another report confirmed the whale had stranded again, this time deceased.

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Inclement weather and timing prevented the team from conducting the necropsy that day, however AMCS worked with local authorities to determine a response plan. AMCS had support from NOAA Fisheries, NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, US Coast Guard, the Town of Oyster Bay and its various departments, Mystic Aquarium, Marine Mammals of Maine, and International Fund for Animal Welfare. The necropsy took place the following day, Saturday, December 22 at the nearby landfill.

The male minke whale was 17 feet in length and approximately 2,860 pounds, which is very underweight for this species. Initial findings showed signs of disease and it is likely the animal had been sick for quite some time. Samples were sent to a pathologist to help determine the cause of death. Pathology results may take several months to come back.

Minke whales are currently one of three whale species experiencing an unusual mortality event, which means that an unusually high number of minke whales have died along the Atlantic coast in the last year. Gathering data from each mortality will help researchers understand what is causing the increases in mortalities. This is our fourth response to this species this year.

More information can be found on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries website here: https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/national/marine-life-distress/2017-2018-minke-whale-unusual-mortality-event-along-atlantic-coast

AMCS responded to a total of 13 large whales in New York State in 2018. AMCS is the primary large whale response organization in New York State. As a nonprofit organization, we truly appreciate all of the organizations involved that were instrumental in these efforts. We ask that the public help by reporting strandings to the NYS Stranding Hotline by calling 631.369.9829.

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What You Can Do: Cold Stun Sea Turtles

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There are four common species of sea turtle in our waters: Kemp’s ridley, loggerhead, Atlantic green, and leatherback. When water temperatures dip below 50 degrees, around late October, sea turtles that do not migrate south for the winter months may become a victim of cold stunning.

According the National Oceanic and Atmospheric (NOAA) Fisheries, the term cold stunning refers to the hypothermic reaction that occurs when sea turtles are exposed to prolonged cold water temperatures. Initial symptoms include a decreased heart rate, decreased circulation, and lethargy, followed by shock, pneumonia and possibly death.

Atlantic Marine Conservation Society monitors beaches with volunteers to look for these turtles to get them the help they need. Even if a sea turtle appears to be deceased, there is a chance it is in fact alive and can be saved. Whether you join us for beach monitoring workshop or simply walk the beach on your own, you can help save sea turtles in New York.

Most important, keep the NYS Stranding Hotline number: 631.369.9829 in your phone and call immediately if you find a sea turtle whether you think it is alive or deceased.

Tips for Beach Monitoring – Do a Beach Cleanup!

  • Dress in warm clothing and bring gloves, a reusable bag, and if possible, a tarp, plastic sled, or tote to transport animal or marine debris found on the beach

  • Bring marine debris data sheets. The ShowLatLong app can be used to record the GPS locations of turtles and marine debris, and the Tides Near Me app will help you determine the tides.

  • Walk after high tide, especially north-facing beach (although animals and marine debris can wash up on any tide)

  • Once at the beach record the time you start walking and time you finish. Record the distance covered (you can also look it up on Google Maps and estimate the distance)

  • Pick up marine debris while monitoring the beach for sea turtles

  • Share your data with AMCS! Beach location, time of walk, distance covered, weight of marine debris found (and forward data sheets), distance covered. Enter a beach cleanup online here.

  • Send data to the volunteers@amseas.org

  • If an animal is encountered, suspend beach cleanup!

What to Do When You Find a Sea Turtle

  • If at any point you encounter an animal, call the NYS Stranding Hotline immediately at 631.369.9829. (Always assume the Sea Turtle is alive if it has a head)

    • Be prepared with the best location

    • Your name and contact number

    • Size of turtle

  • After calling it in to the hotline:

    • Follow instruction received from the person running the call from the hotline

    • If the animal is in danger of washing back out and it is safe for you to move the animal, move it higher on the beach making sure it is orientated with its plastron (bottom of the animal) down and its flippers are free to move

    • Shelter the animal from the wind without touching the animal

    • Record the stranding location, time of encounter, (if you have thermometer take water and air temperature)

    • If possible, wait for the responders

    • If you cannot wait make sure the location is marked and visible so the responders can locate the animal

  • If asked to transport the animal to the beach access area:

    • Transport the animal with the plastron (bottom of the turtle) facing down

    • Keep the head facing away from you as you transport the animal (they can bite)

    • Watch for flipper movement as they can be strong and hit your hands when carrying the animal

    • Keep flippers free to move and record any activity (or lack of activity of the animal) before and during transport to beach access

Questions or want to join us as a volunteer? Email volunteers@amseas.org. Conservation starts with you!

Start a Facebook Fundraiser for AMCS

Do you love the marine environment and want others to share in your passion by supporting a great cause? Start a Facebook fundraiser for Atlantic Marine Conservation Society! Big or small, every dollar will help us promote marine conservation through action. We accomplish our mission through response, research, and education, helping to promote the marine environment and its inhabitants.

Starting your own fundraiser is super easy! Just follow these simple steps:

  1. Click Fundraisers under Explore in the left menu of your News Feed.

  2. Click Raise Money.

  3. Select Nonprofit/Charity.

  4. Select Atlantic Marine Conservation Society, choose a cover photo and fill in the fundraiser details.

  5. Click Create.

Easy! Encourage friends and family to help support your fundraiser on our behalf. We are so grateful to have your support. Thank you!

Two Whales Wash Up in East Hampton, Days Apart

On Monday, September 24, 2018, Atlantic Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) was notified by East Hampton Marine Patrol of a deceased minke whale that stranded on Indian Wells Beach. The initial call came in around 4:30 p.m. AMCS began planning for a response, which was scheduled to take place the next day. In the meantime, they alerted Shinnecock Nation as ceremonies for deceased whales are an important part of their heritage.

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AMCS arrived the following morning, though weather conditions were unfavorable and the outlook for the week looked like conducting a necropsy would be difficult. Thanks to a lucky break in weather during the afternoon, the team was able to perform the examination. The whale was 18.7 feet in length. It was severely decomposed and missing many internal organs, including the reproductive organs, therefore the sex could not be determined.

"Stranding investigations on all marine mammals and sea turtles are an important part of our conservation work as it provides valuable insight into the health of various species and what threats they face in our waters,” said AMCS necropsy program director Kimberly Durham. "Though a definitive cause of death could not be determined during the necropsy our team conducted for this animal today, samples were taken and sent to a pathologist. We will continue to share initial findings from stranding investigations with the public to raise awareness of these species, and will work with our partners to enhance our response efforts in the future."

Pathology results may take several months to come back. The whale was removed from the beach for disposal by the Town of East Hampton.

AMCS is grateful for the support from East Hampton Town Marine Patrol and Town of East Hampton Sanitation. AMCS is also proud to support Shinnecock Nation as they honor their heritage during these events. Shane Weeks of the Shinnecock Nation performed a traditional ceremony for the whale, which is called "podtap" in Shinnecock. Weeks has been to nearly every whale beaching on Long Island for the last several years to perform a ceremony.

"These events hold great cultural value to my people,” Weeks shared. "The whales were also one of the staple foods for the indigenous people in the New England area historically. Our whaling canoes could hold almost 100 people. This connection is still acknowledged to this day."

This was the 10th large whale AMCS has responded to this year. The following morning, Wednesday, September 26, AMCS received calls about another deceased whale in East Hampton, this time just east of Main Beach. They also received a call about a deceased dolphin in the area. A response plan was formulated for what was now the 11th large whale stranding on New York shores in 2018.

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That same day, AMCS worked with Village of East Hampton Police, East Hampton Marine Patrol, the Highway Department, NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, and Shinnecock Nation to conduct the necropsy. The 21-foot animal was severely decomposed, and only the heart and lung were available for examination. The sex and species could not be determined, though samples were taken and sent to a pathologist.

There is an ongoing Unusual Mortality Event (UME) for minke whales along the Atlantic coast. More information can be found on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries website here: https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/national/marine-life-distress/2017-2018-minke-whale-unusual-mortality-event-along-atlantic-coast

AMCS is the lead large whale response organization in New York State. As a nonprofit organization, we truly appreciate all of the organizations involved that were instrumental in these efforts. We ask that the public help by reporting strandings to the NYS Stranding Hotline by calling 631.369.9829.

News coverage from:
East End Beacon
East Hampton Patch and here
East Hampton Press
East Hampton Star and here and here
Fox 5
Hamptons.com and here
NBC and here
Newsday

AMCS Performs Necropsy on Stranded Humpback Whale on Fire Island

On Tuesday, August 28, 2018, Atlantic Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) was alerted by US Coast Guard Sector Long Island Sound of a deceased humpback whale floating offshore by Ocean Beach, Fire Island National Seashore (FINS). Around 6 p.m. in the evening, FINS called AMCS to share the whale had beached between Kismet and the Robert Moses Lighthouse. The team formulated a response which took place the following day, Wednesday, August 29.

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AMCS arrived onsite in the morning to assess the stranding, and returned later again in the afternoon to work with local authorities to remove the animal from the surf and conduct a stranding investigation. The animal was severely decomposed and the carcass was not intact. Due to the level of decomposition, a necropsy examination was limited. AMCS was able to determine the animal was a male, may have been approximately 34 feet in length, and found lacerations consistent with vessel strike. Samples were taken to send to a pathologist to help confirm a cause of death. Those results can several months. Remains were buried on the beach.

AMCS is grateful for the support received from Fire Island National Seashore, NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Park Service, Robert Moses State Park Maintenance, the Ocean Beach Police and community.

As a nonprofit organization, we truly appreciate all of the organizations involved that were instrumental in these efforts. We ask that the public help by reporting strandings to the NYS Stranding Hotline by calling 631.369.9829.

AMCS Performs Necropsy on Stranded Minke Whale in East Quogue

On Sunday, August 5, 2018, Atlantic Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) responded to a deceased minke whale in East Quogue. AMCS worked with the Town of Southampton, Southampton Town Trustees, Southampton Town Bay Constables, Southampton Town Police Department, residents of the Round Dune Community, Chesterfield Associates, Inc., NYS Department of Environmental Conservation to respond to the whale, collect data, and dispose of the remains. Though this animal was severely decomposed, samples were collected and will be sent to a pathologist to help determine a possible cause of death. Results may take several months. This was the 21st large whale stranding in New York in 19 months.

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While examining this animal, the team observed 6 to 8 bottlenose dolphins swimming just offshore. We also spoke with the residents of the Round Dune community about the harms of marine debris and how they do their part for our environment. We were excited to see how active this community is and their dedication to doing their part to promote marine conservation through action.

As a nonprofit organization, we truly appreciate all of the organizations involved that were instrumental in these efforts. We ask that the public help by reporting strandings to the NYS Stranding Hotline by calling 631.369.9829.

AMCS Performs Necropsy on Stranded Humpback Whale in Amagansett

On Thursday, July 26, 2018, Atlantic Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) received a report of a deceased humpback whale in Amagansett – Napeague, East Hampton. US Coast Guard Montauk Station made the initial report. AMCS met with officials from East Hampton Town to formulate a response plan, which took place the following day.

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There was limited space on the beach, so the whale was taken to the sanitation department to conduct the necropsy and dispose of the remains. The whale was female, 30.5 feet in length, and significantly decomposed. Due to the level of decomposition, a possible cause of death could not be determined. Samples were taken and sent to pathologist. The results could take several months to come back. AMCS had support from East Hampton Town's Highway Department, Marine Patrol, Department of Natural Resources, Sanitation Department, and Bistrian Materials and Excavation for their support This was the sixth humpback whale to wash up on New York shores this year.

As a nonprofit organization, we truly appreciate all of the organizations involved that were instrumental in these efforts. We ask that the public help by reporting strandings to the NYS Stranding Hotline by calling 631.369.9829.

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Fox 5: Mystery of Dying Whales Concerns Scientists

Fox 5 NY's Jodi Goldberg met Atlantic Marine Conservation Society chief scientist Rob DiGiovanni at Jones Beach to talk about the recent whale deaths in New York and what he and his fellow scientists are working to uncover.

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Scientists are searching for answers about why humpback whales are dying at an unprecedented rate along the Atlantic Coast.

"Having six animals come up in six months is something that we haven't seen in years," said Rob DiGiovanni, the founder of the Atlantic Marine Conservation Society. "Between May and June, we had four animals come up in a 30-day period." 

Watch the interview and find the story here.

AMCS Performs Necropsy on Stranded Humpback Whale in Far Rockaway

On Tuesday, June 12, 2018, Atlantic Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) received a report of a whale swimming in Reynolds Channel in Far Rockaway. This event recalled memories of a humpback whale that had spent nearly a week swimming in that same area in November 2017, which was believed to have made its way out of the channel on its own. AMCS stayed in contact with their colleagues at the US Coast Guard and the next day, the whale was not seen in the channel. On Thursday, June 14 however, AMCS received a report of a deceased humpback whale on a sandbar near Atlantic Beach Bridge.

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Because of the whale’s location, many resources needed to come together in order to respond. Working with the Town of Hempstead, Bay Constable, and US Coast Guard, teams were able to secure the whale and tow it to Alder Island. Once the whale was moved, the team was able to conduct the necropsy examination, which took place on Friday, June 15.

The whale was male, 30 feet in length, and could have been between 3 to 5 years of age. The examination showed the whale had not been actively eating and may have been compromised. It was also fairly decomposed. Samples were taken and sent to a pathologist to help determine a cause of death. Those results may take several months to come back. AMCS had additional support from Mystic Aquarium and Mount Sinai Icahn School volunteers, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries and NYS Department of Conservation. This was the fifth humpback whale to wash up on New York shores this year, and the fourth whale in less than 30 days.

As a nonprofit organization, we truly appreciate all of the organizations involved that were instrumental in these efforts. We ask that the public help by reporting strandings to the NYS Stranding Hotline by calling 631.369.9829.

4th Stranded Humpback Whale in 2018 Strands in Breezy Point

On Friday, June 1, 2018 Atlantic Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) was made aware of a deceased humpback whale in Breezy Point near the Silver Gull Beach Club. This whale was the fourth humpback to wash up on New York shores and the third one in less than 30 days. The following day, AMCS conducted the necropsy with support from Gateway National Park Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries, NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, and Sea Turtle Recovery to discover what happened to this animal.

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