NJ whale deaths: See the full list to learn how each of them died
Across the Jersey Shore, 10 dead whales — mostly humpbacks — washed ashore or have been seen off the coast since Dec. 1, 2022. The strandings are part of what federal authorities are calling "unusual mortality events" among various whale species along the Atlantic Coast.
Since 2017, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, has recorded and monitored ongoing unusual mortality events, or abnormally high death counts, among Atlantic humpbacks and North Atlantic right whales. NOAA officials say evidence of ship strikes and fishing gear entanglement appear to explain the higher-than-normal deaths.
But some groups, including the Long Branch-based environmental organization Clean Ocean Action and numerous New Jersey politicians, are calling for thorough investigations into the whales' deaths and a moratorium on offshore wind development activity off New Jersey until a cause of the strandings is determined.
A challenge in finding the cause is that about half of whales are significantly decomposed by the time they wash ashore and are examined, according to NOAA officials. Of the half of dead humpbacks that are still fresh enough to examine, about 40% show evidence of ship strikes or fishing gear entanglement, according to NOAA.
NOAA: Federal agency says no evidence offshore wind activity responsible for whale deaths
Whales stranded in New Jersey
Last updated: 3:30 p.m., March 27, 2023.
Dec. 5: A 12-foot long, one-ton infant sperm whale died and washed ashore in Keansburg. The whale did not have any obvious injuries at the time of its examination.
Dec. 10: A 30-foot, roughly 20-ton dead female humpback washed ashore in the Strathmere section of Upper Township, Cape May County. The cause of death was not immediately determined, according to NOAA.
Dec. 23: A 30-foot dead female humpback washed ashore in Atlantic City near South Chelsea Avenue. A cause of death was not immediately determined, according to NOAA. A full necropsy was not performed due to a coastal storm, according to the Marine Mammal Stranding Center of Brigantine.
Jan. 7: A 33.5-foot female humpback washed ashore in Atlantic City near Florida Avenue. The carcass showed evidence of hemorrhaging that is consistent with blunt force trauma, according to NOAA. "Marks from a suspected ship strike were observed just behind the blowhole on the whale’s right side," according to a Facebook post by the Marine Mammal Stranding Center. "When that area was opened and examined, a large hematoma (bruise) was observed."
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Jan. 12: A 32-foot, 7-inch long female humpback washed ashore in Brigantine with hemorrhaging that appeared to be the result of a ship strike. Experts who examined the whale found injuries and bleeding on the whale's head, thoracic region and flipper, according to the Marine Mammal Stranding Center.
Jan. 18: A dead humpback whale was seen roughly 45 nautical miles (nearly 52 miles) off Brigantine, according to NOAA. The whale was in an advanced state of decomposition and was not examined, according to the federal agency.
Jan. 28: A dead humpback was spotted by a Protected Species Observer about 12 miles off Long Beach Island, but was not seen again, according to NOAA. The whale was not examined, according to the agency.
Feb. 13: A 35-foot dead female humpback washed ashore in Manasquan by the Whiting Avenue Beach. Though the animal was in an advanced state of decay, NOAA officials said it had internal wounds that indicated a vessel strike.
March 1: A 30-foot dead female humpback whale that washed ashore near M Street in Seaside Park had bruising on the head, a fractured skull and sharp-force trauma consistent with propeller wounds. The animal also had scars from previous entanglement. Research teams are working to determine whether the wounds happened before or after death, according to the Marine Mammal Stranding Center.
March 24: A severely decomposed whale washed ashore on a beach in Ocean City, according to city officials.
"Public Works crews buried the carcass on the beach after the Marine Mammal Stranding Center completed its inspection," Ocean City municipal spokesman Doug Bergen told the Asbury Park Press in an email.
According to local news website OCNJdaily.com, the whale was a severely decomposed pygmy sperm whale. Marine mammal experts are not expected to determine a cause of death due to the animal's advanced state of decay.
Other strandings along the Atlantic Coast
Jan. 23: A common dolphin washed ashore near Connecticut Avenue in Long Beach Township. Animal experts who examined the dead dolphin said it had pneumonia, bacteria in the lungs and parasite tracks in its brain, according to the Marine Mammal Stranding Center. "The dolphin had bruises on its abdomen, which indicated that the animal was alive and thrashing when it first stranded on the beach," stranding center staff wrote on Facebook. "No indication of blunt force trauma, such as that caused by a vessel strike, was found."
Feb. 18: Three common dolphins died after stranding on the bayside of the Gateway National Recreation Area at Sandy Hook. The cause of their deaths remains under investigation.
Feb. 27: A 8-foot-long bottlenose dolphin washed ashore in Avalon, Cape May County. Its death remains under investigation, according to the Marine Mammal Stranding Center.
March 21: Eight common dolphins beached in Sea Isle City. Two died on the beach and six were later euthanized, the Marine Mammal Stranding Center said. Each was sent to a state lab for necropsy. The cause of death for the dolphins remains under investigation.
Numerous whales have stranded in New York since Dec. 1, including a humpback that died and washed ashore on Lido Beach on Jan. 30 and a female minke that washed ashore in Rockaway Beach in mid-February.
Amanda Oglesby is an Ocean County native who covers Brick, Barnegat and Lacey townships as well as the environment. She has worked for the Press for more than a decade. Reach her at @OglesbyAPP, firstname.lastname@example.org or 732-557-5701.
This article originally appeared on Asbury Park Press: NJ whale deaths: See the full list to find out how each one died