ROCKAWAY BEACH, N.Y. – It was a larger-than-life sighting in Rockaway Beach on Tuesday after a whale rolled onto the shore. The massive sperm whale unfortunately did not survive and this incident now marks the sixth whale to strand in New York since Oct. 20, 2022.
Graham Cullis, along with other people in the water, attempted to push the 32-foot marine mammal back into the ocean.
“With all of the other surfers, we were trying our hardest,” Cullis said.
The young female whale died soon after.
Rob DiGiovanni, executive director of the Atlantic Marine Conversation Society, says the organization is examining the body and conducting a necropsy to find out what may have contributed to her death.
“When you have a whale or dolphin or these animals who spend all their life in the marine environment, it’s really unusual for them to show up on shore without something being wrong,” DiGiovanni said. “We’re not always able to find out what that is because there are a lot of variables associated with that.”
Members on scene say the whale’s blubber appeared to be thinner than normal.
Mike Reinhardt of Locals Surf School came to the beach to check the waves like he does every morning and when he caught word of what was happening, he walked a few blocks up to see it in person but stayed back.
“The realist side of me recognizes that fact that it was probably futile because there were strong waves coming and that thing weighs a lot and if a whale like that is close to shore, it’s probably dead or dying anyways,” Reinhardt said.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration was also on scene.
“Please remember that dolphins, porpoises, and whales are protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act, which makes touching, feeding, or otherwise coming into contact with these animals illegal,” a spokesperson said. “The best way to assist these animals, and keep them and yourself safe, is by calling trained responders and maintaining a 150-foot distance.”
Sperm whales are listed under the Endangered Species Act and to see another one die is a sad memory for those who tried to save her.
“What will stay with me for the rest of my life is hearing the blow hole and hearing the poor little one’s groans as, obviously, she was departing this world,” Cullis added.
The Atlantic Marine Conversation Society says it doesn’t only want to know when animals are sick or dead on the beach. It encourages the public to report their sightings even when there are healthy animals in the wild, so that they can create dialogue and educate the public if certain behaviors are normal.