A drastic increase in the number of humpback whale deaths along the Atlantic Coast since the beginning of previous year has triggered and investigation by NOAA Fisheries.
As of April 24, 2017, 15 dead whales were spotted along the Atlantic Coast. MERR executive director Suzanne Thurman said it appeared to be a juvenile humpback whale, but bad weather and how the carcass was stuck on the rocks prevented her from examining it thoroughly.
The average number of humpback whales found stranded annually from ME to North Carolina is 14 per year. Their estimated population along the East Coast has increased from fewer than 2,000 four decades ago to between 10,000 and 13,500 today, which last fall resulted in the population segment being de-listed from the federal Endangered Species Act.
NY holds the dubious lead of most fatal humpback whale strandings a year ago, and along with other deaths, the spike is alarming federal officials.
Ten of the marine mammals showed acute signs of blunt force trauma or large propeller cuts from colliding with ships or boats, suggesting this was the likely cause of death.
In response to a large increase in the humpback whale death toll along the Eastern Seaboard, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced an investigation on Thursday into the deaths, which have been occurring on the Atlantic coast, stretching from ME to North Carolina.
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Silber said humpback whales tend to follow their prey - one possible reason accounting for why they might get hit by a boat.
Scientists have performed necropsies on 20 of the whales.
The declaration also comes just one day after a whale was found ashore near Chadwick Beach in Ocean County.
"The answer is really unknown", said Greg Silber, coordinator of recovery activities for large whales with the NOAA Fisheries Office of Protected Resources. UMEs were issued for humpbacks in 2003, 2005 and 2006 and a cause was never determined, Fauquier said.
NOAA said there are rules in effect meant to protect whales, including ship speed reduction provisions and others that mandate recreational boats stay at least 100 feet away from the animals.
"These mortalities are unusual because they are a marked increase in magnitude", said Mendy Garron, stranding coordinator for NOAA.
Just recently, though, a study found that 14.7 percent of whales in the ME and New Hampshire coasts have at least one vessel strike injury.