A Humpback Whale Has Washed Ashore in New Jersey — Why Does This Keep Happening?

Lizzy Rosenberg - Author

Feb. 15 2023, Published 3:32 p.m. ET

Beached Humpback Whale
Source: Monmouth County Government

Monmouth County Department of Public Works employees along with federal, state and local partners assisted in the removal of a deceased humpback whale at the Manasquan Inlet beach.

Though Tuesday, Feb. 14 was Valentine's Day, New Jersey environmentalists and animal lovers were completely heartbroken after a humpback whale washed ashore a New Jersey beach the prior day. The Monmouth County Department of Public Works and Engineering, the NOAA, the Marine Mammal Stranding Center (MMSC), the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, and the Borough of Manasquan then teamed up to remove the dead whale from the Manasquan Inlet.

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After the body was discovered, the MMSC and the Atlantic Marine Conservation Society also began to perform a necropsy, to figure out why the whale may have died.

“Working with Monmouth County, the decision was made to move the whale to the county landfill for examination and tissue sampling,” reads a statement from an NOAA spokesperson, as per Gothamist.

“Necropsy teams will have access to heavy equipment and resources that will enable a complete examination," the statement continued.

As this is sadly the ninth whale to beach in the state of New Jersey within the past few months, so it goes without saying locals, politicians, and environmentalists alike are incredibly concerned.

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What to know about the humpback whale who died in New Jersey this week:

The whale who was discovered dead along the shores of Manasquan Inlet was 35 feet long, according to a press release from Monmouth County, and was determined to be female. It is unclear how she died, but as previously mentioned, her body is still undergoing testing.

“It’s a shame,” Manasquan's Mayor Edward Donovan stated via NJ.com. “I don’t know what is happening with all the whales (washing ashore) but they’re beautiful animals.”

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Rescue efforts were reportedly performed quickly and efficiently.

“On behalf of the Board of County Commissioners, I would like to commend our Public Works employees along with our federal, state and local partners including the Boroughs of Sea Girt and Spring Lake, who assisted in this removal operation,” Commissioner Director Thomas A. Arnone stated, as per the press release. “Group efforts like this are examples of the County’s commitment to our partners and residents.”

But because this is becoming part of a worrying pattern, many are wondering why so many whales are washing ashore the East Coast — particularly in the state of New Jersey. There could be a few reasons.

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Conservatives blame offshore wind farming.

Right wing politicians in New Jersey are convinced the beachings relate to offshore wind farming — but the NOAA maintains there is no evident connection.

“[T]here is no evidence to support speculation that noise resulting from wind development-related site characterization surveys could potentially cause mortality of whales, and no specific links between recent large whale mortalities and currently ongoing surveys," reads a statement from the NOAA, via The Guardian.

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There could be a connection to the humpback whale's growing population.

“We know several factors that may be driving these interactions,” NOAA Fisheries spokeswoman Lauren Gaches said Wednesday while discussing the nine whale deaths on the coast. “As the humpback whale population has grown, their occurrence in the Atlantic has increased. These whales may be following their prey, which we’re hearing from our partners in the region are reportedly close to shore this winter.”

Regardless, we hope to stop seeing headlines about whales beaching sooner rather than later, as it certainly leaves us feeling heartbroken about the deaths of these truly gorgeous creatures.

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