Two Dead Humpback Whales off LI in Two Days

Pictured Above: A deceased humpback whale was found floating off the coast of Montauk Friday (Rob DiGiovanni photo for AMSEAS)

Two dead humpback whales were found floating offshore off Long Island late last week in the midst of an unusual mortality event in effect for these whales up and down the Eastern Seaboard.

The U.S. Coast Guard reported Friday, July 17 that a it had found a dead humpback whale floating about six miles south of Montauk.

By the end of the day Friday, the Atlantic Marine Conservation Society (AMSEAS), working with the Coast Guard, the New York Department of Environmental Conservation and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration “decided the best course of action is to place a location tag on the carcass and track its movements,” according to AMSEAS. “The whale is currently 4.5 miles offshore near Montauk and is fairly decomposed, which would make towing a lengthy and difficult process. A necropsy examination is not planned at this time. AMSEAS will be tracking the data collected from the tag to determine what the next steps of the response may be.”

On the afternoon of Saturday, July 18, AMSEAS responded to a call to the New York State Stranding Hotline (631.369.9829) that a deceased 27.5-foot female humpback whale was floating offshore near Smith Point County Park in Shirley. The whale washed up on shore later that day.

The humpback whale that washed ashore on Smith Point Saturday.

“The 27.5-foot female was in good body condition but ​being that it was already late in the day a full necropsy examination was not able to be performed,” according to AMSEAS. “Samples were able to be collected including fecal samples, indicating the animal had been eating recently. Trauma to the tissues examined around the animal’s head were consistent with vessel strike. These samples will be sent to a pathologist to help determine a cause of death.”

The animal was buried on the beach late Saturday night in order to maintain safety of the public and open access to the beach.

There was a third sighting of an unknown whale near Rockaway that observers said looked “as if it may possibly be in need of help,” according to AMSEAS spokesperson Rachel Bosworth. “We do not have an exact location or photos. Right now it’s a report that AMSEAS is monitoring, should the animal be sighted again or strand.”

The summer season has been busy for the Atlantic Marine Conservation Society, which, as of the latest beaching at Smith Point, has responded to 17 marine mammal and sea turtle stranding responses in the month of July so far.

Responses took place across Long Island, from the East End into Queens, including three dolphins, 11 sea turtles, and seven large whales.

There has been an unusual mortality event in effect for humpback whales along the Atlantic coast since 2016. More information can be found on NOAA Fisheries website here

As boat strikes are a frequent cause of death of marine mammals, AMSEAS urged boaters to be on the lookout for whales and other marine animals using our waters.

The public is encouraged to report sightings of this animal and any other marine animals that are in distress, stranded, or floating dead to the NYS Stranding Hotline at 631.369.9829. 

“By working together, we’re able to organize our response efforts quickly and efficiently,” said Atlantic Marine Conservation Society chief scientist Rob DiGiovanni. “We strive to understand what impacts these whales so we can promote marine conservation through action. We want to thank all who have helped us in addressing these issues, including fellow conservation organizations, local municipalities, the state and federal government, volunteers, and the public. It is truly a collaborative effort.”

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]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *