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Investigating the mystery of washed-up whales on Long Island’s shores

In a sad turn of events, the past four days have witnessed the discovery of three lifeless whales on Tri-State beaches. This pattern has called the attention of scientists and researchers to investigate the potential causes of these tragedies.

Among these fallen giants, a young male humpback whale, measuring an impressive 26 feet in length, found itself marooned on the serene shores of Long Beach, Long Island. The sight of the beached whales prompted the initiation of a necropsy—a marine equivalent of an autopsy—aimed at finding the cause of the whale’s death.

A grim pattern has emerged: six uncommon humpback whale fatalities have been recorded in New York, accompanied by seven others in New Jersey, within the time span of January to May this year.

The main concern is the discovery that 40% of these whales bore the signs of vessel strikes or ensnarement in fishing gear—a reminder of the human footprint on these magnificent beings. This escalating crisis has been unfurling since 2016, as over 200 humpback whales found themselves stranded along the East Coast.

At the heart of this news is climate change, a prominent threat to marine life. The warming of oceanic temperatures causes humpback whales to redirect their habitual behaviors, nudging them closer to the shorelines in the pursuit of their primary prey—the elusive menhaden fish. This relocation increases their proximity to human activity, particularly the bustling maritime traffic, which sets the stage for encounters leading to the scarring of these majestic creatures.

Guiding the response to these distressing incidents is the Atlantic Marine Conservation Society (AMSEAS), standing as a stalwart guardian. Their alliance with institutions like the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and NOAA Fisheries New England/Mid-Atlantic shows their commitment to understanding this tragedy, seeking understanding into the whales’ inner workings and the factors influencing their demise.

There’s a heightened importance in amplifying public awareness and gaining support for ongoing investigations, as researchers continue into the intricate web of variables causing the whale’s demise. Should you encounter an injured, entangled, or deceased whale, help exists in the form of the 24-hour stranding hotline at (866) 755-6622.


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