Minke Whale Stranded in Northwest Creek Dies

Pictured Above: Atlantic Marine Conservation Society biologists examining minke whale | NOAA Fisheries photo

Atlantic Marine Conservation Society (AMSEAS – amseas.org) received a report of a live minke whale stranded in Northwest Creek, East Hampton around 8 a.m. this morning. The whale is reported to be 12 to 14 feet long, and in about 1.5-2 feet of water. 

AMSEAS sent a response team to evaluate the animal, which was reported to be breathing, but not otherwise very active.

East Hampton Marine Patrol and NYS Department of Environmental Conservation were on scene to make sure the whale was safe, and to keep people from disturbing this distressed whale. When the AMSEAS team arrived, they confirmed the animal had died.

The team  worked with East Hampton Town Marine Patrol to relocate the whale up the beach to collect data. The minke whale is a female and 16 feet in length.

Barnacles attached to the fluke and its thin body condition are signs the animal may have been in poor health.

NYS DEC, NOAA Fisheries, and Suffolk County Parks assisted in the efforts. Members of Shinnecock Nation were also on site to perform a blessing for the whale.

This is the second whale to have died on the South Fork’s shores in the past week — a dead 27.5 foot long humpback whale washed up at Halsey Neck Lane in Southampton last Thursday.

There has been an ongoing unusual mortality even in effect for minke whales along the Atlantic coast from Maine to South Carolina since 2017.

Initial findings from this minke whale stranding are consistent with diseases found in other minke whales that have stranded under the unusual mortality event, including the minke whale that stranded in Oyster Bay in December 2018. 

The whale had an empty stomach, lesions on the heart and lungs consistent with the other cases of disease, and the brain also presented with those disease findings. The brain was collected whole to be scanned by our partners at the Mt. Sinai School of Veterinary Medicine. The remains were disposed of at the sanitation facility in East Hampton.

Twenty-seven deceased minke whales were reported found in 2017, 30 were found in 2018 and 21 have been found to date this year, according to NOAA.

Full or partial necropsy examinations were conducted on more than 60 percent of the whales. Preliminary findings in several of the whales have shown evidence of human interactions or infectious disease. These findings are not consistent across all of the whales examined, so more research is needed.

AMSEAS has also responded to two leatherback sea turtles strandings this week. It is important to report all strandings of marine mammals and sea turtles to the NYS Stranding Hotline at 631.369.9829.

Sightings of healthy animals are critical as well and can be shared by emailing sightings@amseas.org.

Minke whales are the smallest of the baleen whales, and fairly common in the waters off Long Island. 

There has been an ongoing unusual mortality event (UME) in effect for minke whales along the Atlantic coast since 2017. 

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 beth@peconicbathtub.com

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