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Investigation Being Conducted On Mass Die-Off Of Atlantic Whales

First Posted: Apr 28, 2017 04:31 AM EDT

Humpback whales have been dying at an alarming rate along the Eastern Seaboard since last year. Marine biologists have called it an "unusual mortality event" that meant they, too, had no clear idea why such an event is happening.

The New York Times reported that 41 whales have died in the past 15 months along the Atlantic coast. Officials from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries admitted that they, too, were unable to identify the underlying reason for the deaths. However, 10 out of the 41 were known to have been killed by ships.

The whales were said to have "evidence of blunt force trauma or large propeller cuts." Veterinary medical officer Dr. Deborah Fauquier, from the Office of Protected Resources, said that the collisions were "acute events." They are also being treated as the whales' "proximate cause of death."

Whales are said to be oblivious to the presence of boats when they are feeding or socializing. This is why scientists are treating boat injuries as the main cause of humpback whale deaths. According to Gregory Silber of the NOAA's Office of Protected Resources, vessels of any size can harm whales. Smaller vessels tend to cause propeller strikes. Larger ones often injure whales by form of blunt trauma, broken bones or hemorrhaging.

The investigation regarding whale deaths is still ongoing. According to Portland Press Herald, it will focus on possible common threads like toxins and illness. They will also look into prey movement that could have brought whales into the shipping lanes. Other factors are also being taken into account.

Among these other factors could include marine noise, which is often a result of either military activity or offshore drilling and exploration. Such activities can disorient the animals and send them off to the wrong direction. In some cases, it can lead them to beaches instead of deep waters.

This theory is backed up by a study on dolphins. The friendly creatures were shown to shoot up from their dives far more quickly than usual when they try to escape predators or other sources of marine noises. Dolphins can switch from slow swims to longer, faster strokes. This behavior causes them to double the use of their energy, leading to exhaustion.

NOAA officials are also calling for help from the public. They are calling on individuals to report stranded or dead, floating whales to the numbers listed on the official NOAA website.

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