Mysterious Uptick in the Deaths of Humpback Whales

BALTIMORE (WJZ)– Humpback whales, like one that washed up in New York this month, have had multiple deaths in past years, but not like this.

According to NOAA investigators, it’s happening between Maine and North Carolina.

Forty-two deaths occurred during the past 15 months, two were in Maryland. Ten have been traced to ship strikes, 22 others floating at sea were considered either unreachable or too badly decayed to study and of the remaining 10, tests could not determine a cause of death.

“It’s definitely a mystery at this point. We do not have a smoking gun for all the cases, and so that is concerning for us. That’s part of what this investigation will hopefully do,” said NOAA veterinary officer Dr. Deborah Fauquier.

Humpback whales swim the world and around 10,000 migrate up and down the Atlantic coast.

NOAA oversees rescue efforts when they get in trouble. Often it’s cutting them free when they get tangled in fishing lines, provided they can be reached, but nature often removes evidence of what kills a whale.

Possibilities include toxins, viruses, increased shipping, changes in food sources, meaning a specific cause for many of the deaths may never be known.

“About 50 percent of the time we can’t determine the cause,” Fauquier said.

While hoping more don’t fall victim.

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