Newsday

AMCS Performs Necropsy on Stranded Humpback Whale on Fire Island

On Sunday, May 27, 2018 Atlantic Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) was made aware of a deceased humpback whale on Fire Island in the Point O’ Woods area. This was the third reported humpback whale of the month and the year. In coordination with Fire Island National Seashore, NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, and local authorities, AMCS scheduled the necropsy for the following morning.

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The necropsy was completed on Monday, May 29, 2018 with support from Fire Island National Seashore, NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries, Point O’ Woods Association, and Suffolk County Police. The whale washed ashore in a piping plover area, which are a species listed as “Threatened” under the Endangered Species Act. With this in mind, the team was diligent about respecting the area these birds live in as to not cause harm or distress.

The female humpback whale was 33 feet long and could have been between three to five years of age. AMCS biologists found evidence of blunt force trauma consistent with vessel strike. The whale was fairly decomposed and samples were taken and sent to a pathologist to help confirm the cause of death, the results of which may take several months to come back.

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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Newsday: Record number of dead whales near Long Island in 2017, group says

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Original story published in Newsday by Laura Blasey and John Asbury:
Marine life experts are looking for answers after a record number of dead whales were reported around Long Island this year.

Though final numbers are still pending, both Long Island’s Atlantic Marine Conservation Society and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries’ Atlantic branch are reporting a spike in injured and dead whales. A 33-foot humpback found dead Tuesday at East Atlantic Beach marked the 14th deceased, stranded whale in the society’s New York records this year. Most of the 14 were found on Long Island.

For comparison, there were four large whale deaths in 2016, eight in 2015 and six in 2014, according to AMCS. A decade ago, reported deaths were even fewer: just one in 2006 and four in 2007.

“This is a very dramatic year we’ve had,” said Robert DiGiovanni, chief scientist and executive director of AMCS, which recently completed its first year of whale stranding response.

Scientists say higher whale activity in the area due to increased fish populations could be one reason more whales are being stranded or getting struck by ships.

A necropsy Wednesday on the 20-ton female whale at East Atlantic Beach was inconclusive, AMCS said. The whale was buried on the beach, which AMCS and NOAA said is the most natural way to dispose of deceased whales.

The whale’s death is the latest in what NOAA has called an “unusual mortality event” among humpback whales on the Atlantic coast in 2016 and 2017. Similar deaths also have been seen in other whale species.

NOAA experts were not available for comment, but the agency said last month that 58 humpbacks had been reported dead from North Carolina to Maine from January 2016 to last month, with eight of those in New York. Based on necropsies conducted on about 20 of the whales, experts said about half had evidence of ship strikes.

Locally, NOAA and AMCS experts aren’t the only ones seeing an increase.

Gotham Whale, which tracks whales in the New York City area, has been getting up to seven sightings per day off Long Beach and in the Rockaways. More than half the recent whale deaths Gotham recorded have been caused by ship strikes, said Paul Sieswerda, executive director of Gotham Whale.

About 20 years ago, scientists might have seen one whale a year stranding on Long Island, according to DiGiovanni, who has worked in marine conservation for decades. The new frequency is about one every 63 days.

One possible explanation is increased populations of fish that whales feed on, like bunker fish, in more urban New York waterways, drawing whales to the area more frequently. In 2015, experts said fish population movements were responsible for a spike in whale sightings in Long Island Sound.

But Sieswerda said it’s still unusual to see whales during the winter months, even with more fish.

“They’re usually gone by this time of year and migrate past Montauk without coming in our area,” he added. “The last few years, they’ve been coming into our area in greater numbers every year.”

DiGiovanni said scientists are exploring other factors that could bring more whales to shore, like currents. But that work requires data, and he said scientists at AMCS have to wait until testing results from several whales come back in the spring.

NYS large whale deaths
2017: 14
2016: 4
2015: 8
2014: 6
2007: 4
2006: 1

Source: Atlantic Marine Conservation Society

Read the story and find additional photos from Newsday here.

Newsday: NOAA probes 13 North Atlantic right whale deaths

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.

Read the full story online here.

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