Atlantic Marine Conservation Society Responds to Multiple Whale Standing in July, Including Smith Point

The summer season has been busy for Atlantic Marine Conservation Society (AMSEAS – with 17 marine mammal and sea turtle stranding responses in the month of July so far. Responses took place across Long Island, from the East End into Queens, including three dolphins, 11 sea turtles, and, within the last two days, three large whales. By activating the large whale response plan in New York State, AMSEAS and partners have been able to quickly organize to respond to these animals as strandings have increased over the years.

The most recent stranding took place on Saturday, July 18, 2020 at Smith Point County Park. The whale was initially reported by a private vessel that called the NYS Stranding Hotline at 631-369-9829 around 2 p.m. As of 5:15 p.m., the whale had washed ashore.The 27.5-foot female was in good body condition but being that it was already late in the day a full necropsy examination was not able to be performed. Samples were able to be collected including fecal samples, indicating the animal had been eating recently. Trauma to the tissues examined around the animal’s head were consistent with vessel strike. These samples will be sent to a pathologist to help determine a cause of death. The animal was buried on the beach late Saturday night in order to maintain safety of the public and open access to the beach. AMSEAS worked with Suffolk County Parks, Suffolk County Department of Public Works, Fire Island National Seashore, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYS DEC), and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries in this response. 

The previous day, Thursday, July 17, 2020, a deceased humpback whale floating approximately 4.5 miles offshore near Montauk was given a location tag to track the carcass’ movements as ocean conditions would have made towing it to shore a lengthy and difficult process. 

“By working together, we’re able to organize our response efforts quickly and efficiently,” shares Atlantic Marine Conservation Society chief scientist Rob DiGiovanni. “We strive to understand what impacts these whales so we can promote marine conservation through action. We want to thank all who have helped us in addressing these issues, including fellow conservation organizations, local municipalities, the state and federal government, volunteers, and the public. It is truly a collaborative effort.”

As the lead large whale response organization in New York State, AMSEAS has responded to seven large whale strandings in 2020, including assisting in the response for the North Atlantic Right Whale in New Jersey. Yesterday’s response was the fifth humpback whale to strand on Long Island this year. There has been an unusual mortality event (UME) in effect for humpback whales along the Atlantic coast since 2016. More information can be found on NOAA Fisheries website here

There have been multiple sightings of whales, dolphins and sea turtles off Long Island. Boaters are encouraged to keep an eye out, maintain a safe distance from these animals, and report sightings to Strandings should be reported immediately to the NYS Stranding Hotline at 631-369-9829.