A Whale of a Loss

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Rockaway was whaling over the loss of a beautiful creature this week. Over the past few years, the presence of humpback whales in local waters has increased significantly. However, unfortunately one was found dead on the beach around Beach 117th/118th Street on Tuesday, April 4. The sad sight drew in many spectators as curious residents wanted to get a glimpse of the mammal up close.

The deceased whale, which was identified as a male humpback whale, measuring at 30 feet and weighing approximately 20 tons, was found at around 7 a.m. on Tuesday. Some were hoping that the whale died of old age, but according to Rachel Bosworth of the Atlantic Marine Conservation Society (AMCS), its size indicated that the whale was likely around two years old. It is believed that the whale was already deceased when it washed up on shore, as the United States Coast Guard had reported the whale as floating nine miles offshore on Monday evening.

Shortly after the whale was found, members of the 100th Precinct and the Department of Parks and Recreation were on hand to keep onlookers at a safe distance from the creature, out of concerns that it may carry or spread disease. That afternoon, AMCS Necropsy Program Coordinator Kimberly Durham arrived on site to do an initial assessment of the situation and make follow-up plans, along with New York City Sanitation and the Office of Emergency Management. A rising tide and poor weather on Tuesday made an on-site necropsy, or animal autopsy, a challenge, so officials decided to postpone it until Wednesday morning.

A team effort was made on Tuesday afternoon by NYC Parks, NYC Sanitation, the Office of Emergency Management, and the Ladder 137 Firehouse, to move the whale further up the beach, away from the rising tide, using rope and heavy machinery. A necropsy began on Wednesday morning in a process that took four hours. AMCS found that the whale was likely hit by a boat. "There was tissue damage consistent with blunt force trauma, the bruising covered about 2/3 of the whale's body. This is consistent with a vessel strike. There were also extensive kidney parasites with associated renal damage. The whale's stomach was filled with recently ingested menhaden," Bosworth said. The remains were buried on the beach.

In the event of another animal stranding, whether dead or alive, the public is advised to call the New York Stranding Hotline at 631.369.9829. Photo and videos are also useful and can be sent to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. By law, people must maintain a distance of 150 feet from a live marine mammal, and this distance is also recommended for deceased animals due to disease and safety concerns.

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