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Dead Whale Found on Assateague – One of Many Recently Washed-up on East Coast Shores

Allen Sklar’s photos of the dead whale found on Assateague have been making their way around Facebook.  On January 16 at 10 am, Allen came across the dead whale in the OSV area of Assateague.  He believes the whale is likely a humpback and has been dead for at least 2 weeks.  To read more and see more of Allen’s pictures, click here.

Allen Sklar photographed this whale on the beach at Assateague.
Waves crash against the corpse of a whale on Assateague. Photo by Allen Sklar.
The baleen on this filter feeder is intact. Photo courtesy of Allen Sklar

The National Park Service has made a post on Facebook addressing this 20′ long humpback.  They said that Maryland Department of Natural Resources’ Stranding Response Program (MD-DNR) is the lead agency for stranding response in Maryland.  They are performing a necropsy on January 17th to determine this whale’s cause of death as there is no apparent reason visible.

Why are the Whales Dying?

Of course, the best answer, until somebody actually does a necropsy is to say, who knows?, but there are lots of theories out there.  On January 13, 2023 the AP posted an article out of Brigantine, New Jersey, saying that the Governor there did not want to halt the progress on off-shore wind farms despite the recent deaths of 7 whales off the coasts of New Jersey and New York.  Speculators accuse off-shore wind, boats, and other options for these deaths.

Another article on the AP details how an environmental group opposed to off-shore wind is demanding a probe to determine the cause of death for these whales by writing to President Biden.  The Marine Mammal Stranding Center in Brigantine, NJ is taking tissue samples to see if they can find the cause. (click to read more)  

In the above linked article, it states that NOAA is investigating why a large number of whales have been dying along the entire East Coast since January of 2016 with 40% of them having been struck by a ship or becoming entangled…

“The Associated Press reported that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a federal agency, has been studying what it calls “unusual mortality events” involving 174 humpback whales along the entire East Coast since January 2016.

NOAA spokeswoman Lauren Gaches told the Associated Press that the study period pre-dates offshore wind farm work along the East Coast.

About 40 percent of the whale deaths showed evidence of having been struck by a ship or having become entangled in ropes, lines or fishing gear. No humpback whale deaths have been attributed yet to activity related to offshore wind farms, Gaches also told the Associated Press.”

Hopefully, the Assateague National Park will soon release the details on the cause of this whale’s death.

Early Necropsy Results Ship Strike is the Culprit 

(updated January 19, 2023)

NOAA released early details from their necropsy performed on January 17th on the female humpback whale that washed ashore on Assateague earlier this week.  Blunt force trauma causing a blood clot consistent with a ship strike.  More details are available in an article on DelmarvaNow.

Visit www.assateaguephotos.com to see more of Allen Sklar’s photos from Assateague.

Ann has been with StateVentures since 1999. She moved from Annapolis to Berlin, MD to be closer to Ocean City. She splits her work week between the two locations to help clients and visitors get the best information and value out of our sites. She loves a camera and any excuse to use it.  Her kids are both grown and off adventuring.  Ann loves to travel with her kids and lives with her dog Marley when she's not in Virginia fishing.

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