Dead Whale in Southampton Adds to Unusual Mortality Concerns

Atlantic Marine Conservation Society “AMSEAS” (amseas.org) received a report yesterday at 8:35 a.m. from a member of the public about a deceased humpback whale, approximately 27.5 feet in length, in the surf at Halsey Neck Lane in Southampton.

The AMSEAS team that responded worked with Southampton Village Highway Department, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries, New York State Department of Conservation, and the Mystic Aquarium Animal Rescue team to conduct a necropsy. The animal was emaciated and there were no significant findings.

The team took samples that will be sent to a pathologist to help determine the cause of death. Those results may take several months to come back. The whale was buried onsite. 

This is the 13th large whale and seventh humpback AMSEAS has responded to this year.

An unusual mortality event (UME) has been in effect for humpback whales since 2016. Find out more about the Humpback Whale UME, including stranding numbers along the Atlantic coast. 

Since January 2016, elevated humpback whale mortalities have occurred along the Atlantic coast from Maine through Florida, with more than 100 deceased whales reported in that time — 26 in 2016, 34 in 2017, 25 in 2018.

Under the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act, an unusual mortality event is defined as “a stranding that is unexpected; involves a significant die-off of any marine mammal population; and demands immediate response.

Partial or full necropsy examinations were conducted on approximately half of the whales. Of the whales examined, about 50 percent had evidence of human interaction, either ship strike or entanglement, according to NOAA Fisheries.

A portion of the whales have shown evidence of pre-mortem vessel strike; however, this finding is not consistent across all whales examined, and NOAA Fisheries has deemed that more research is needed.

As part of the investigation process, NOAA has assembled an independent team of scientists to coordinate with the Working Group on Marine Mammal Unusual Mortality Events to review data, sample stranded whales, and determine the next steps for the investigation.

If you see a marine animal in distress, please contact the New York State Stranding Hotline at 631.369.9829.

Beth Young

Beth Young

Beth Young built her first boat out of driftwood tied together with phragmites behind her family’s apartment above the old Mill Creek Inn in Southold. Nowadays, she spends most of her time kayaking, learning about shellfish, writing newspaper stories, trying to sail a Sunfish, and watching the way the bay changes from day to day. You can send her a message at [email protected]

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