COAST & OCEAN
The East Coast Whale Die-Offs: Unraveling the Causes
Activists are blaming a recent spate of humpback strandings off New York and New Jersey on seismic exploration by offshore wind companies. But scientists say the deaths are not unusual and are likely due to increased ship traffic and entanglements with fishing gear.
ANDREW S. LEWIS / YALE ENVIRONMENT 360 – In early December of 2016, the carcasses of juvenile humpback whales began turning up in the busy waters around the mouth of Virginia’s Chesapeake Bay. By the end of February, 10 animals had been found within about a 200-mile stretch of coast between Virginia and North Carolina.
Though scientists did not yet know it, the spate of deaths marked the start of an “unusual mortality event” (UME) for humpback whales. Such episodes, which are codified in the Marine Mammal Protection Act, involve unexpected strandings and a “significant die-off” of any marine mammal population …