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Whale found dead on NJ’s Long Beach Island had blunt force trauma, was only 1 year old

By Joe Brandt

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    PHILADELPHIA (KYW) — The beached humpback whale found dead on Long Beach Island in New Jersey early Thursday morning was a 1-year-old male who had suffered blunt force trauma, the Marine Mammal Stranding Center said Friday.

The 24.8-foot-long whale was found in the surf near 51st Street in Long Beach Township, New Jersey. The MMSC worked with Long Beach Township police and public works crews to remove the whale out of the rough surf and onto the beach and later transport it for a necropsy with assistance from Sea Turtle Recovery.

The necropsy revealed the injuries that likely came from the blunt force trauma – including bruising and a hematoma in the head, multiple skull and neck vertebrae fractures and internal organ damage.

The whale also had scars from getting tangled in something, but that incident was unrelated to it washing ashore.

“Our entire team is always deeply saddened by every deceased animal that we investigate, but the ones that hit the hardest are animals like this young whale who never got the chance to contribute to his species,” the MMSC said in a Facebook post.

All humpback whales were once considered an endangered species, but the species was later divided into 14 population subgroups with different statuses on the endangered species list.

The North Atlantic population of humpback whales are not considered endangered but other populations like in the Western North Pacific are.

The MMSC did not specify what caused the blunt force trauma. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration notes the main threats humpback whales face in the wild are getting struck by a ship or other marine vessel, getting tangled in fishing gear and ocean noise.

The death of a whale found on the beach in Long Beach Township comes amid an unusual rise in dead humpback whales along the East Coast, according to NOAA.

The “unusual mortality event” has been observed since 2016 and stretches from Maine to Florida.

Eight humpback whales were found dead in New Jersey in 2023, and Thursday’s whale is the first death in the state this year, according to NOAA data.

NOAA says boaters should be cautious of any feeding humpback whales, who may work together to move fish from the ocean up toward the surface.

NOAA also says boats should stay at least 100 feet away from whales at all times and also follow safe marine life viewing guidelines.

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