One foggy morning last April, a dead humpback whale washed up on New York’s Rockaway Beach. It was a young male, thirty-one feet long, and had extensive bruising—the result of contact with “something very large,” according to Kimberly Durham, of the Atlantic Marine Conservation Society, who performed the necropsy. The Rockaway whale was one of sixty-eight humpbacks that have died between North Carolina and Maine since 2016, casualties in what the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is calling an “unusual mortality event.” And humpbacks, it turns out, are not the only species suffering. Last August, noaa declared another unusual mortality event, this time for North Atlantic right whales: eighteen of the endangered animals have died recently. Then, in January, the agency announced that minke whales were getting stranded, too: twenty-one have died. The occurrence of three simultaneous and ongoing cetacean mortality events along the East Coast is not just unusual; it is unprecedented.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Fisheries division and Canadian authorities are launching an investigation after a number of North Atlantic right whales have died this summer, stressing the already imperiled population.
Thirteen of the critically endangered mammals have died since April — 10 in Canada’s Gulf of St. Lawrence and three at or near Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, said David Gouveia of NOAA Fisheries Greater Atlantic Region.
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