2 Dead Humpback Whales Seen Floating Off the Coast of New York

2 Dead Humpback Whales Seen Floating Off the Coast of New York

Two dead humpback whales have been spotted floating in waters not far from New York City, the federal authorities said on Thursday, in another worrying sign for a species that faces a number of threats.

The sightings were reported by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Marine Mammal Stranding Center, a New Jersey nonprofit that helps whales and other animals in distress. Neither group respondent immediately to overnight requests for comments.

One dead whale was seen in Raritan Bay, off Staten Island, and the other in Wainscott, NY, near East Hampton on Long Island, the groups said in Facebook posts. Both were in a triangular section of the Atlantic Ocean, known as the New York Bight, that extends from Cape May in New Jersey to Montauk on the tip of Long Island.

The groups said in their statements that biologists across multiple organizations, including state agencies, were helping to move the whales. No other details were immediately available.

It’s been a rough few months for whales along the East Coast. Between early December and late February, 23 of them washed up dead, 12 in waters off New York or New Jersey. Most were humpbacks.

The overall humpback population in the Western Atlantic is not at risk, according to NOAA. (Four of the animal’s 14 distinct populations remain endangered — in the waters of Central America, northwest Africa, the Middle East and the western North Pacific.)

Yet NOAA officials consider the spate of Atlantic whale deaths over the winter to be unusual. The agency’s data also suggests that the number of humpback deaths along the Atlantic Coast from Maine to Florida has been elevated since 2016.

Recent post-mortem examinations of humpbacks suggested that ship strikes were a likely cause of death. Scientists see some deeper explanations behind that. Whales tend to feed closer to shore as a result of ocean warming linked to climate change, for example. The coronavirus pandemic also led to a surge in cargo shipments, resulting in more ship traffic than usual passing through the New York metropolitan area.

Humpback whales are found in all of the world’s major oceans and often travel thousands of miles between their breeding and feeding grounds, according to the International Whaling Commission. Before a global moratorium on commercial whaling came into effect in 1985, the animal’s global population had drastically decreased.

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