High numbers of humpback whales dying off Atlantic coast

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PORT MAHON, Delaware — Federal officials say humpback whales have been dying in unusually large numbers along the Atlantic Coast.

The News Journal reports that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Marine Fisheries declared it an “unusual mortality event,” which is called when higher-than-normal numbers of marine mammals die for unknown reasons. An agency spokeswoman says details will be provided Thursday.

Marine Education, Research and Rehabilitation Institute Executive Director Suzanne Thurman says a decomposing whale washed into shallow water in the Delaware Bay recently, but weather is hampering efforts to study it. Thurman says it apparently was a juvenile humpback. If confirmed, it would be the fourth stranded in Delaware waters in a year, an unusually high number.

Four have stranded off Virginia and there was a stranding last fall off Long Island. That whale was euthanized. A humpback whale also washed ashore in the Rockaways in early April. The 25-foot whale had numerous wounds and lacerations across its body and was bleeding by the mouth.

A minke whale was also recently euthanized after it washed up on the shore of the Bronx. Several agencies including the NYPD, Riverhead Foundation and veterinarians from the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Bronx Zoo attempted to help the whale swim on its own back out to see.

Officials say though the whale was free floating, it kept sinking and washing up on the shore.