Whale Deaths Skyrocket in NY Waters, Scientists in Race Against Time

whale deaths skyrocket in ny waters scientists in race against time.jpg Science

A mysterious surge in whale deaths along New York’s Atlantic coast has left marine scientists racing against time to find answers and solutions. This year alone, twelve whales have been found dead, a drastic increase that continues a worrying trend observed over the past seven years. The casualties include nine humpback whales and three minke whales, most of which were found stranded on Long Island and the Rockaways. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) suspects that eight of these deaths resulted from collisions with vessels.

Since 2016, an alarming total of 72 humpback whales have washed up dead off the coasts of New York and New Jersey. This figure represents more than a third of the 208 strandings recorded between Maine and Florida, according to NOAA data. The nine humpback deaths recorded in New York this year, up from two last year, already match the total count from 2020. Scientists like Robert DiGiovanni, the director of the Atlantic Marine Conservation Society, are now striving to piece together a real-time picture of whale movements in order to propose effective measures to curb this tragic trend.


Spike in Whale Deaths Triggers Concern Among Marine Scientists

The Atlantic coast of New York has witnessed a significant increase in whale deaths this year, with twelve cases reported so far. This surge has sparked concern among marine scientists, leading to widespread efforts to understand and reverse this alarming trend that has been on the rise for the past seven years.

Unusual Mortality Event

Nine humpback whales and three minke whales have been stranded in New York, primarily on Long Island and the Rockaways, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). It is believed that eight of these whales succumbed to injuries from vessel collisions. In addition to this, eight more humpback whales have been found dead in New Jersey, marking the highest total since NOAA started recording Atlantic Coast deaths as an Unusual Mortality Event in 2016.

Since 2016, 72 humpbacks have been reported dead off the coasts of New York and New Jersey, accounting for more than a third of the 208 strandings recorded between Maine and Florida. This year alone, New York has witnessed nine humpback deaths, matching the total from the previous year.

Scientists Scramble for Solutions

Marine scientists like Robert DiGiovanni, the director of the Atlantic Marine Conservation Society, are working tirelessly to create a real-time picture of whale movements. This information will allow them to suggest potential solutions, such as alerting mariners to whale feeding grounds or implementing speed limits in high-traffic shipping channels.

DiGiovanni and his team are working to determine why the whales are being struck and where they are most likely to be found. He believes that as the coastal waters become healthier and fish populations increase, whales are feeding closer to shore.

A Network of Whale Watchers

Paul Sieswerda, former curator of the New York Aquarium and founder of Gotham Whale, relies on a network of whale watchers and citizens to track whales by identifying unique markings on their tails. To date, the group has identified 327 different whales in New York waters, providing invaluable insight into their movements.

When a female humpback was found washed up on Atlantic Beach near the Rockaways on August 25, Sieswerda’s group recognized it as whale #NYC0323 from their catalog. A necropsy revealed that the whale had been struck by a vessel and had evidence of being entangled in a fishing net.

Takeaways

The alarming increase in whale deaths along the Atlantic coast is a pressing concern for marine scientists. Their efforts to track and understand whale movements, feeding patterns, and the impact of human activities are crucial to devising strategies to protect these magnificent creatures. As the coastal waters continue to get healthier, it’s vital to implement measures that ensure the safety of marine life, including imposing speed limits in busy shipping channels and alerting mariners to whale feeding grounds.

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