Increasing Number Of Whales Washing Ashore Along East Coast

Experts are concerned about a marked rise in the number of dead whales that have washed up along East Coast beaches thus far this year.

Since January, a total of 14 whales — all either humpback or minke — have been discovered in New York and New Jersey alone. Last year, that number was just nine.

Late last month, two dead humpback whales washed ashore on the same day. One was found in Raritan Bay, New Jersey, and the other on Long Island, New York. Both of the animals had sustained obvious injuries and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration determined that they likely died as a result of blunt force trauma.

As for the cause of those injuries, there is still plenty of debate. Some authorities are concerned about the increasing size of ships, which inherently pose a greater danger to marine life.

Although there hasn’t been a significant increase in the number of ships sailing in the Atlantic over recent years, at least 12 of the 98 right whales killed in the region since 2017 were hit by ships.

The Port Authority has taken some steps to reduce the likelihood of a ship strike, including mandates that cap the speed of the vessels.

Of course, there are other theories regarding the rise in whale deaths. Among the most prevalent involves the recent proliferation of offshore wind turbines. Patrick Moore, who previously served as the president of Greenpeace, has argued that soundwaves used as part of the surveying process in these wind farms can have a deleterious impact on whales and other marine species.

In New Jersey, GOP lawmakers attempted to pass a measure last month that would temporarily halt new development of offshore wind farms in an attempt to determine whether they pose a risk to whales. Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy, however, shot down their request.

Among the other common theories is that fishing equipment has resulted in the uptick in injuries and death among whales. In reality, though, there is no concrete evidence pointing to a specific cause, as College of the Atlantic professor Sean Todd explained.

“When an animal dies on our coastline, the process of determining cause of death is an extremely lengthy one – and that can be very frustrating to the public,” he said. “And obviously we have to be prepared to possibly declare that we don’t know how the animal died.”