Dead whale found on Brigantine, NJ beach likely hit by boat
BRIGANTINE — A necropsy team of more than three dozen people has concluded that the whale most recently found dead at the Jersey Shore was likely struck by a vessel, according to officials.
The female humpback was found in the North End Natural Area in Brigantine on Thursday. It was the seventh dead whale found in the New York-New Jersey region in the past month.
The whale was 32 feet 7 inches long, longer than initial estimates of between 20 and 25 feet, according to the Marine Mammal Stranding Center in Brigantine. It weighed around 12 tons.
The MMSC said that the necropsy team, led by Kim Durham of the Atlantic Marine Conservation Society, was able to collect all necessary tissue and organ samples for testing.
"Preliminary results based on observations during the necropsy suggest that the whale suffered blunt trauma injuries consistent with those from a vessel strike," the MMSC said in a statement. "Injuries and hemorrhaging were observed on the head and thoracic region, as well as along the right side and the pectoral flipper."
Authorities expect the preliminary findings to be confirmed through testing in the coming weeks.
Additionally, the whale's "blubber thickness" showed that it was healthy prior to the injuries. Its stomach also had partially digested fish and other signs of active feeding behavior.
🐋 Offshore wind to blame for NJ whale deaths?
This most recent beached humpback is the third dead whale to wash up on Brigantine's shores in recent weeks. The seemingly high number of deaths so close together in distance and time has raised concerns from the public.
Last week, ocean advocacy organizations including Clean Ocean Action sent a letter to President Joe Biden demanding an investigation and a pause on all ongoing activity for offshore wind power.
Offshore wind projects have become a lightning rod for blame in the wake of the whale deaths. State lawmakers including Rep. Jeff Van Drew, R-N.J. 2nd District, joined the ocean advocacy groups in calling for a pause to wind projects.
Gov. Phil Murphy called the deaths "tragic" at an event Friday but said the state would not stop its offshore wind activity. He pointed to the possibility that the whales had been hit by vessels. The governor also noted that an increase in whale deaths started in 2016 before offshore wind activity began, according to NOAA.
The MMSC made a similar case regarding the post-2016 increase on social media last Wednesday in a post that included a chart of whale stranding data from 2002 through Jan. 7, 2023. The center said NOAA declared an Unusual Mortality Event as a result of the spike.
" A portion of the Humpback whales necropsied have shown evidence of pre-mortem vessel strike; however, this finding is not consistent across all whales examined, and more research is needed," the center said.