2017-06-22 / News

Humpback washes ashore at Beavertail


Curious spectators at Beavertail State Park on Friday get a glimpse of the dead humpback whale that washed ashore. 
PHOTO BY ANDREA VON HOHENLEITEN Curious spectators at Beavertail State Park on Friday get a glimpse of the dead humpback whale that washed ashore. PHOTO BY ANDREA VON HOHENLEITEN The 32-foot carcass of a humpback whale washed ashore Friday morning after drifting west from Newport’s Brenton Point.

According to the U.S. Coast Guard, the Castle Hill station received reports in the middle of last week about a dead whale floating at the mouth of Narragansett Bay. Rescue workers and two veterinarians from Mystic Aquarium were on-site Friday when it reached land to collect genetic samples. A preliminary report indicates the whale is a male between 2-3 years old.

As of Wednesday morning, the whale was still along the rocky cliffs on the west side of Beavertail, with waves from the heavy sea crashing against it. According to Gail Mastrati, spokeswoman for the state Department of Environmental Management, the weather is hampering the removal process.

When the seas calm down, however, the state will work alongside Mystic to haul the whale from the bay onto a beach so a necropsy can be performed. Mastrati then expects the whale to be buried. Another option is for the whale to be dragged out to sea.

Some speculation has emerged about the possibility that the Block Island wind farm could be responsible. There have been reports that noise from the turbine allegedly affects the sonars whales use to navigate. However, there is no link to this whale to a pod that was sited off Block Island Sound.

According Jennifer Goebel, spokeswoman for the Atlantic region of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the dead Beavertail whale isn’t a freak accident. The Atlantic coast from Maine through North Carolina has seen 46 dead humpbacks since January 2016. Because of the unusually high number, Goebel said the federal agency has declared an “unusual mortality event,” which is triggered by “a stranding that is unexpected; involved a significant die-off of any marine mammal population; and demands immediate response.”

This is the 63rd unusual mortality event declared by NOAA since it was founded in 1991.

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