NC expert says the number of whale deaths along the East Coast in the past couple of weeks is concerning

For immediate release ‐ March 18, 2024

Contact: Kerry Irish, 919.707.9823. Images available upon request

A minke whale skull rests on a table in the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences' mammalogy collection.This minke whale skull is just one of many specimens in the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences’ mammalogy collection. Photo: NCMNS.

By Annette Weston-Riggs

A minke whale washed up on the Outer Banks last week, one of several dead whales found in the region in recent days.

Two humpback whales also washed ashore in Virginia Beach, and the first right whale calf born this year was found dead in Georgia. The calf had serious injuries to its head, mouth and lip, likely from a vessel strike.

A beached sperm whale stranded on a sandbar off Florida’s Gulf Coast on Sunday and later died. Federal officials say at least 18 whales have washed up on East Coast beaches since Dec. 1.

North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences Mammalogy Research Curator Dr. Michael Cove said that list also includes a dwarf sperm whale that washed up this week in the Outer Banks, and the number of whale deaths in such a short time is concerning.

“It does seem like a lot,” he said, “And it can be a little bit scary and depressing, frankly.”

With necropsy – or animal autopsy – results still pending, the cause of the deaths and strandings is not clear, but Cove worries that pollution in the Atlantic could be one factor.

“Some of this makes me wonder if we’ll see evidence of things like the unfortunate consumption of plastics by these animals, and that is causing them to have blockages that that affect them,” he said.

In November, a live Gervais’ Beaked Whale washed up in Emerald Isle and died soon after, and a necropsy found the female calf died from eating a plastic or mylar balloon.

Read the full article on Public Radio East

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