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USA. What killed these humpback whales? Their deaths may have had the same cause

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Dead humpback whales that have been found on New York and New Jersey beaches are believed to have died from heavy, blunt impacts. The animals were found a relatively short distance on Wednesday, raising suspicions that their deaths may be related.

On Wednesday, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced on social media that it had received information about two dead humpback whales. One was found off the coast of Wainscott, New York, and the other was adrift in Raritan Bay, New Jersey. These places are located less than 180 kilometers from each other.

Unrelated cases

On Friday, NOAA announced that both mammals had been autopsied. Experts said the animals’ deaths were likely unrelated – the New York cetacean, a 14-metre male, was in a more advanced state of decomposition than the eight-metre female from New Jersey. The remains of both animals bore traces of blunt blows.

The New Jersey mammal appeared to have been struck by the ship, NOAA reported. This was indicated by the injuries sustained by the animal – it had bruises and lacerations all over its body, as well as numerous fractures. The remains of the second animal were more difficult to analyze, but experts found traces of bruising.

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The number of deaths is increasing

NOAA data shows that since January 2016, the number of deaths of humpback whales on the east coast of the USA has been increasing year by year. A total of 23 dead humpback whales washed ashore in 2023, including five in New York and seven in New Jersey, according to a government agency.

The agency said more research is needed to fully understand the cause of death of these large marine mammals. She added that in 40 percent of the whales that were autopsied, they died as a result of human interaction – either by collision with a ship or by becoming entangled in a net.

Humpback whales worldwide were severely depleted by fishing until the practice was banned in 1985. This species is still protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act in the US.

Oceanic humpback whale – illustrative photoShutterstock

Main photo source: NOAA Fisheries New England/Mid-Atlantic

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